Saturday, January 4, 2014

Causes of Afib

What causes atrial fibrillation? Why do you have Afib?

Afib may occur in patients with no heart disease or even patients with no medical problems at all. More commonly, however, it is associated with cardiovascular diseases such as Hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease or Congestive Heart Failure. There is also a strong link between afib, obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. 

Recent studies have shown that many patients have genetic traits that will predispose them to atrial fibrillation. That's why it is not uncommon to see afib running in several family members.

Hypertension is commonly associated with afib
Hypertension is very commonly associated with atrial fibrillation

The most common causes for afib include:

  • Age Older than 60 years of age
    • Afib is associated with aging and much more common in elderly individuals

  • Obesity
    • as the size of the body increases, the size of the heart and the stress on it increases, making the risk of afib higher
    • if you loose weight, it will help decrease the stress in your help, decrease the risk of all cardiovascular diseases and afib

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
    • in patients with OSA, there are changes in the pressure inside the chest that can cause stretch in the atria and increased risk of afib. 
    • CPAP and weight loss can help significantly
    • Please read our section about Sleep Apnea and Afib
  • Diabetes
    • it can cause many changes in the heart, including risk of blockages and increase in scar tissue formation

  • Hypertension
    • high blood pressure can make you more prone to afib
    • it will increase the pressure inside your heart, and it may cause the atria to enlarge
    • after afib ablation, you are more likely to have recurrence if your blood pressure is not well controlled

  • Heart problems:
    • High blood pressure
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Prior heart attacks
    • Congestive heart failure
    • Valvular heart disease 
      • most commonly, mitral valve leakage, which will increase the pressure in the atria, causing afib
    • Prior open heart surgery

  • Thyroid disease
    • afib is very commonly seen in patients with hyperthyroidism and it may go away after it is treated.
    • some forms of afib seen in patients with thyroid problems can be cured by treating the thyroid

  • Chronic lung disease
    • patients with advance lung disease are not only at higher risk of developing afib, but also have difficult to control disease

  • Excessive alcohol or stimulant use
    • excessive alcohol use can cause many forms of heart disease
    • many patients with afib will have spells after binge drinking

  • Serious illness or infection
    • it is very common for patients to have afib when they are severely ill. Often it will go away when they are better.

  •  Pectus Excavatum (hollowed chest)
    • Recent studies have shown that patients with hollowed chest are much more likely to have afib

    Some people who have atrial fibrillation have no heart disease at all, this is a condition called lone atrial fibrillation. In lone atrial fibrillation, the cause is often unclear, and it may have a genetic component. 

    Jose Osorio, MD

    Cardiac Electrophysiologist

    St Vincent's Hospital

    Birmingham, Al


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