Afib: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Sep 12 • 2016

Did you know an estimated 2-6 million people in the United States alone have atrial fibrillation? In honor of Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, we’ve laid out the facts you need to know about this heart condition and how you can reduce your risk.

What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?

There are a wide variety of factors that can increase your risk for atrial fibrillation – however, doctors may not be able to determine the exact cause for each case. Knowing the risk factors is important because while some cannot be changed, there are others that can be reduced with adjustments to your lifestyle. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Older age
  • Having European ancestry
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Family history

What Can I Do to Prevent It?

Luckily there are several things you can do to prevent atrial fibrillation, many of which are simple lifestyle changes that will positively impact your overall health. If you’re concerned about your family history, consider:

  • Getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Working with a doctor to manage high blood pressure
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating heart-healthy food
  • Consuming caffeine and alcohol in moderation
  • Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level

What Symptoms Should I Look Out For?

There are a wide variety of symptoms to be aware of if you’re concerned about atrial fibrillation. Be aware of one or more of these:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and shortness of breath
  • Faintness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Irregular, rapid, or thumping heartbeat
  • Sweatiness
  • Chest pain

If you experience serious chest pain, it’s important to call your doctor immediately.

This September, educate yourself about atrial fibrillation and make the right lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.