Healthy Living

What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?

What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?

Key Takeaways

  • There are more than a few triggers known to cause atrial fibrillation, and most of them are heart-related.
  • Stress is an associated risk factor for heart rhythm problems, as well as an overactive thyroid gland.
  • AFib should be dealt with in its early stages as it can be fatal if left untreated.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition that happens due to an irregular beating of the heart. It is also known as AFib. There are a number of factors that are suspected to be known triggers for the disease, although doctors still do not know what exactly causes it.

There are more than a few triggers known to cause atrial fibrillation, and most of them are heart-related. There are tertiary signs that can also be responsible for triggering the condition in an individual.

The factors that are commonly associated with atrial fibrillation include high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary artery disease, lung disease, any previous heart surgery, and abnormal heart valves. Congenital heart defects can also be responsible for the condition. Surprisingly, stress is an associated risk factor for heart rhythm problems, as well as an overactive thyroid gland. Viral infections and even sleep apnea are commonly linked to atrial fibrillation and its varying forms.

If an individual has a sick sinus syndrome (SSS), it can also lead to heart rhythm problems. SSS is a sinus disorder where the sinus node, the heart's natural pacemaker, is not functioning properly. Varying risk factors can indicate a future issue with hearth rhythm such your age and atrial flutter. Atrial flutter can lead to atrial fibrillation and vice versa. Atrial flutter is less life-threatening than AFib but still requires medical attention.

Discussed below are some of the factors that are believed to be the causes of AFib:

Age and Other Heart Problems

As you grow older, your chances of developing heart disease will also increase, which makes you more vulnerable to AFib. There are also other medical conditions that may not be associated with your heart, but they can still increase your chances of getting atrial fibrillation such as:

These conditions are more likely to develop in older people, thus, making them more prone to AFib.

Your Lifestyle Choices

AFib is more likely to affect people who practice binge drinking. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases your risk and makes you more likely to get the disease. The same also applies to those who smoke a lot or consume high levels of caffeine. Extreme exercises may also affect the heart and can result in AFib.

Heart Condition

People who have heart problems such as coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, or previous incidents of heart attacks are prone to the disease.


Obese people are more likely to be affected with the condition than healthy people. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that your weight is in check before things get out of hand.

Other Chronic Conditions

Other chronic health conditions may include thyroid problems, angina, atherosclerosis, and asthma, among others. These diseases make you more vulnerable to getting atrial fibrillation.

However, despite all of the causes listed above, AFib sometimes affects people who are healthy and fit. When this happens, the condition is referred to as Lone Atrial Fibrillation.

Tips on How to Keep Safe from the Risk Factors Associated with AFib

  • Avoid excessive intake of stimulants - such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. By avoiding such stimulants, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also lowers your risk of getting the disease.
  • Keep your weight in check - to keep from becoming obese, and thus, increase the chances of being affected by AFib.
  • Ensure you keep track of your family history - AFib is a condition that has been found to be more prevalent in certain families. If there are members who have been affected by it, then the likelihood of you getting the disease is higher. It is always better to see a doctor for a proper consultation about your health.
  • Regular checkups - If you have been affected by other chronic illnesses, make sure that you visit a doctor to have regular checkups and tests. Having a regular checkup is necessary to ascertain that AFib has not affected you and also for an early diagnosis of the disease in case you already have it. An early detection will provide room for an early treatment before it worsens.

Types of Atrial Fibrillation

There are four known types of atrial fibrillation, each with their own signs and symptoms that are indicative of a heart condition. Some have symptoms that are intermittent, while others are more chronic in nature.

Occasional (paroxysmal) atrial fibrillation can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and is seemingly random in symptom outbreaks. The persistent form of the condition inhibits the rhythm of the heart from returning back to normal after the symptoms arise. Specifically-tailored treatments are required to restore a normal heart rhythm. Methods include electrical shock or medications prescribed by your doctor to alleviate the symptoms.

The two more serious forms of atrial fibrillation can cause more severe complications with your heart rhythm. The persistent atrial fibrillation has also an advanced sub-type form. It is called as long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation and is often chronic in nature. It has been known to last for periods longer than a year. The most severe or advanced form of this heart rhythm condition is certainly the permanent form. Permanent atrial fibrillation means exactly what it sounds like. In this type, an abnormal heart rhythm cannot be restored, regardless of available treatment options. However, symptoms can be managed through prescription medications that will control your heart rate.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of lifestyle choices and home remedies you can do to help reduce the symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Some of them are seemingly obvious, while others may need to be practiced for a longer time to cause positive changes in the progression of atrial fibrillation. These changes will not only help treat atrial fibrillation, but they also help prevent future contractions of other conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure (hypertension).

Perhaps one of the most effective methods for treating a variety of complications and conditions is a well-balanced, healthy diet that can have incredible long-term benefits. Dietary recommendations will help prevent the risk of heart disease due to atrial fibrillation. A heart-healthy diet will not only reduce the likelihood of related conditions, but it will also promote physical activity, as well as increased energy levels regardless of external factors. You will find that through a healthy diet, you will require caffeinated beverages such as coffee much less frequently, and will simultaneously reduce your stress levels, which are known to be exacerbated by a poor diet. Alcohol and smoking are also coupled in this category. By eliminating these vices, a healthier, less disease-prone heart will manifest, increasing satisfaction and happiness in life.

While on the subject of promoting a healthier diet, maintaining a healthy weight will also help reduce the complications that are associated with atrial fibrillation such as high blood pressure. While it may not be easy to practice, regular exercise is encouraged for people with atrial fibrillation, as well as for many other conditions that could benefit from proper exercise.

AFib is a medical condition that is seen to be associated with heart, lung, and at times, blood vessel problems. It should be dealt with in its early stages as it can be fatal if left untreated. Should you experience any abnormalities of the heart, visit your doctor as soon as possible.