A Answers (11)
Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answeredIn people with atrial fibrillation, of AF for short, a chaotic electrical signal in the upper part of the heart produces a change in heart rhythm. Watch this animation to see how this happens.
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Michael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
Atrial fibrillation makes the normal flow of electricity through your heart as fuzzy as a radio searching for a station.Many poor choices (too many hot dogs, or diet pills, or smoking) or conditions (high blood pressure, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and a few hundred more) damage the heart’s electrical system and can lead to abnormal heartbeats, like atrial fibrillation.Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
Piedmont Heart Institute answered
Atrial fibrillation (AF) occurs when the electrical signals traveling through the heart are conducted abnormally and become very rapid and disorganized.
This is the result of damage to the heart's electrical system. The damage most often is the result of other conditions, such as coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure that affects the health of the heart.
Sometimes, the cause of AF is unknown.
This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.
Johns Hopkins Medicine answered
Atrial fibrillation is a type of cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate and/or rhythm). Atrial fibrillation produces a rapid and irregular heartbeat, during which the atria (the upper two chambers of the heart that receive blood) quiver (or fibrillate) instead of beating normally.
During a normal heartbeat, the electrical impulses that cause the atria to contract begin in the sinus node, a small area of the right atrium. During atrial fibrillation, however, these impulses come from all over the atria, triggering 300 to 500 contractions per minute within the heart's upper chambers.
Anything that speeds up or slows down the heart's normal electrical impulses can trigger a cardiac arrhythmia. Coronary or rheumatic heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes have all been identified as major risk factors. In many patients, the underlying cause of atrial fibrillation is more serious than the arrhythmia itself.
You can help prevent atrial fibrillation by modifying the appropriate cardiac risk factors:
- Eat a low-fat diet Control cholesterol and hypertension
- Quit smoking
- Control weight
- Get regular exercise
Unfortunately, some causes of atrial fibrillation are not preventable.
Atrial fibrillation can be caused by a number of different things that predispose the heart to arrhythmias. Most commonly, longstanding high blood pressure is the cause. Other causes include heart disease such as blockage in the coronary vessels or diseases such as pneumonia or COPD. Smoking often contributes to atrial fibrillation. Hypothyroidism can also be a cause. Just because one has one of the above conditions does not mean that he will necessarily get atrial fibrillation. However, it can predispose a person to the condition.
Donna Hill Howes, RN, Administrator, answered
Most of the time, there are reasons why someone experiences atrial fibrillation. Here are some of the most common triggers or causes of atrial fibrillation:
- Drinking too much alcohol at one time (binge drinking or having five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks for women)
- Heart failure where the heart's pumping action is inefficient
- After a heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- After coronary artery surgery
- Untreated high blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Certain medications such as decongestants and diet pills
- Thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism)
- Valvular heart disease
- Illegal drugs (cocaine)
In older people, AFib is most likely caused by the heart muscle fibers in the atria stiffening with age. But anyone at any age can get it. In a younger person AFib is most likely caused by genetic predisposition. Conditions commonly associated with AFib are high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart valve disease, and thyroid problems.
Douglas Severance, Family Medicine, answeredAtrial fibrillation may result from lifestyle habits or health problems such as heart disease. Sometimes the abnormal heart rhythm of atrial fibrillation is linked to acute or temporary problems, like drinking too much alcohol at one time. Many people go to the emergency room after a night of drinking with a rapid or irregular heartbeat. When this occurs, it's called the "holiday heart syndrome." Caffeinated beverages, stimulants, decongestants, and illegal drugs may also trigger occasional atrial fibrillation.
Other more serious problems can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. These include heart disorders such as heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, and pericarditis; an overactive thyroid gland; lung disease; and diabetes. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is often a cause of atrial fibrillation. Smoking is another risk factor, as is obesity. In some cases, the problem has a genetic component and runs in families. Sometimes, abnormal heart rhythms happen for no known reason.
Many conditions can increase the risk for Afib:
• high blood pressure
• age: Afib is more common in people over 60 years old
• obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop
breathing temporarily while you sleep
• heart failure
• thyroid disease
• heart valve disease
• lung disease
• a heart attack caused by coronary artery disease
• family history: Research has shown some genes are linked to Afib.
In some cases of Afib, the cause can’t be identified.
Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute answeredCommon causes of atrial fibrillation include:
- Coronary artery disease;
- Congenital heart disease;
- Heart failure;
- Hypertension (high blood pressure);
- Diseased heart valves;
- Chronic lung disease;
- Pulmonary embolism.
Less-frequent causes include hyperthyroidism, pericarditis, and a viral infection. At least 10 percent of people with atrial fibrillation experience this abnormal heart rhythm as a result of stress, alcohol, caffeine, medications, or imbalances in their metabolism or electrolytes. Sometimes the cause is undetermined.
Penn Medicine answeredCauses of atrial fibrillation (AFib) vary and range from existing heart problems to infections to chronic conditions like obesity and sleep apnea. Common risk factors and conditions that may cause AFib are:
- Congenital heart defects (defects you are born with)
- Heart attack, or a damaged heart muscle from a past heart attack
- Heart valve diseases
- Heart failure or coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Substances or drugs, including alcohol, caffeine or stimulants