Are you at risk for atrial fibrillation?
Any person can develop atrial fibrillation, also called AFib or AF. Because the likelihood of AFib increases with age and people are living longer today, medical researchers predict that the number of AFib cases will rise dramatically in coming years. Even though AFib clearly increases the risks of heart-related death and stroke, many people do not fully recognize the potentially serious consequences.
Who is at higher risk?
People who have one or more of the following conditions are typically at higher risk for AFib:
- Advanced age: The number of adults developing AFib increases markedly with older age. AFib in children is rare, but it can happen.
- High blood pressure: Longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure can increase your risk for AFib.
- Underlying heart disease: This includes anyone with heart disease, including valve problems, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, acute coronary syndrome, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and a history of heart attack. Additionally, AFib 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.
- Other chronic conditions: People with hyperthyroidism, diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical problems also are at risk.