Mellanie discusses the causes of atrial fibrillation.
A-fib can be from a number of causes and we say that we are all experiments of one when we have A-fib and that really means that we may have all unique combinations of symptoms and causes. For some people it’s because they have family history. It’s a genetic thing. We are learning whole lot more about the genetic component of atrial fibrillation.
For other people it may be because they have heart disease. We know that heart disease is forever and once you have it you are at more risk for other things and atrial fibrillation is one of those things. For some people it’s because they have diabetes. That can be a risk factor for many people.
For other people its thyroid issues. It can be high thyroid or low thyroid. For many people it can be no particular cause at all. That’s what’s called lone atrial fibrillation. It’s in the absence of underlying heart disease.
So we don’t necessarily know what causes lone atrial fibrillation but we do see it happening a lot in people who exercise and love to exercise, people that are competitive athletes, you know, high-performance athletes. Olympians, often professional athletes, and people that love to do triathlons and, you know, lots of competitive racing, we see that particularly in younger people and especially in men in their 30s and 40s who have lone atrial fibrillation.
There can be many other causes, as well. Recently at the Heart Rhythm Society, which is the society for electrophysiologists, it was reported that there are couple of issues that we haven’t necessarily thought of as being related to atrial fibrillation. One of the important ones is inflammation, which we know is also a severe risk for heart disease.
Another one that has been more closely correlated with A-fib than even heart disease has been with A-fib is sleep apnea. For those who have obstructive or central sleep apnea, meaning maybe you snore, maybe you wake up a lot during the night because you stop breathing. Those who have sleep apnea are at high risk of atrial fibrillation.
We also know that the atrial fibrillation and the sleep apnea together can be major causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia. So if you think you might have sleep apnea it’s definitely worth getting checked out because it can lead to atrial fibrillation. So there are many, many causes.
In many cases people believe it’s because they drink caffeine or coffee regularly, or maybe tea. In many cases it’s due to alcohol. A lot of alcoholic beverages can trigger A-fib and in fact that’s what’s called the holiday heart which is during the holidays, maybe you are celebrating a lot and people tend to have bouts of A-fib as a result of holiday heart.
And then, there can be other concerns, other issues – dehydration can be a trigger for A-fib and can bring it on. Lack of certain electrolytes, lack of magnesium can be a cause or a trigger for A-fib. So there are probably as many combinations as there are individuals who have atrial fibrillation.
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