There are many factors that can contribute to A-fib - some you can control, and some you can't. Unfortunately, age, which is a key risk factor, is something none of us can avoid. At the age of 80, one in ten people will have some sort of A-fib. It also is more common in men than in women, and in more whites than blacks. If you have an immediate relative with A-fib, your chances in getting it are doubled. All this aside, there are ways you can control your chances of getting it.
While occasional consumption of alcohol may help protect your heart against disease, excessive drinking can really damage the heart. According to a recent study in the journal Circulation, heavy alcohol intake increases the risk of A-fib in men.
Researchers hypothesize that heavy alcohol intake may lead to A-fib by affecting the structure and size of the heart or by promoting irregular heart rhythms in people predisposed to A-fib.
Obesity may trigger A-fib by increasing inflammation in the body. Research has demonstrated that weight loss can play an important role in improving A-fib control in many patients.
Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects an estimated 12 to 18 million Americans. People with sleep apnea snore and repeatedly experience brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing can cause drastic changes in oxygen levels, putting an enormous strain on the heart, which can lead to an increase in heart rate and risk for vascular disease.
Aside from obesity, recent research shows that just being overweight can put you at risk for A-fib. Excess pounds may contribute to A-fib by causing an enlargement of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. This, in turn, may cause the atria to enlarge.
A-fib occurs frequently after cardiac surgery, especially coronary bypass. While usually shortlived, if A-fib after surgery persists, it may increase the risk of other complications.
Overall, aside from the benefits of general wellness, losing weight would be the best first step to reduce your risk of A-fib, even if you're predisposed to getting it.