Any person, ranging from children to adults, can develop atrial fibrillation. Because the likelihood of AF increases with age and people are living longer today, medical researchers predict the number of AF cases will rise dramatically over the next few years. Even though AF clearly increases the risks of heart-related death and stroke, many patients do not fully recognize the potentially serious consequences.
Who is at higher risk? Typically people who have one or more of the following conditions are at higher risk for AF:
- Advanced age The number of adults developing AF increases markedly with older age. Atrial fibrillation in children is rare, but it can and does happen.
- Underlying heart disease Anyone with heart disease, including valve problems and history of heart attack. Additionally, atrial fibrillation is the most common complication after heart surgery.
- High blood pressure Longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure can increase your risk for AF.
- Drinking alcohol Binge drinking (having five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks for women) may put you at higher risk for AF.
- Sleep apnea Although sleep apnea isn’t proven to cause AF, studies show a strong link between obstructive sleep apnea and AF. Often, treating the apnea can improve AF.
- Other chronic conditions Others at risk are people with thyroid problems, diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical problems.
This content was last reviewed on 05/30/2012.