Who is at Risk for Atrial Fibrillation (AF or AFib)?

Updated:Apr 10,2018

friends fishingAre you at risk for atrial fibrillation? (AFib or AF)

Any person, ranging from children to adults, can develop atrial fibrillation. Because the likelihood of AFib increases with age and people are living longer today, medical researchers predict the number of AFib cases will rise dramatically over the next few years. Even though AFib 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 AFib:

  • Advanced age 
    The number of adults developing AFib increases markedly with older age.  Atrial fibrillation in children is rare, but it can and does happen.
  • High blood pressure 
    Longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure can increase your risk for AFib.
  • Underlying heart disease 
    Anyone with heart disease, including valve problems, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, acute coronary syndrome, Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome and history of heart attack. Additionally, atrial fibrillation is the most common complication after heart surgery.
  • Drinking alcohol  
    Binge drinking (having five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks for women) may put you at higher risk for AFib.
  • Family history 
    Having a family member with AFib increases your chances of being diagnosed.
  • Sleep apnea 
    Although sleep apnea isn’t proven to cause AFib, studies show a strong link between obstructive sleep apnea and AFib. Often, treating the apnea can improve AFib.
  • Athletes 
    AFib is common in athletes and can be triggered by a rapid heart rate called a supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
  • Other chronic conditions  
    Others at risk are people with thyroid problems (specifically hyperthyroidism), diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical problems.

This content was last reviewed July 2016.