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Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

atrial fibrillation causes

Atrial Fibrillation develops as a result of structural changes to the heart. The causes of AF are not always clear and can be complex.1,2,3

Possible causes of Atrial Fibrillation are wide ranging with heart disease, age, family history, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption, obesity, and other chronic conditions all factors that can increase your risk of developing AF.1,4

Other Chronic Conditions

Lifestyle Factors

Other Factors (non-modifiable factors)

  • Coronary artery and other heart disease5,6
  • Diabetes7,8
  • Heart failure5,9,10,11,12,13
  • High blood pressure14
  • History of heart attack5,15
  • Previous surgery16,17
  • Sleep-disordered breathing (e.g. obstructive sleep apnoea)7,18
  • Activity level1,7,19
  • Alcohol consumption1,7,20
  • Obesity3,6,7,21
  • Risks for cardiovascular disease: smoking, stress, caffeine and other stimulants1
  • Congenital heart defects8
  • Family history or other genetic factors5,22,23 
  • Male sex1,5,24 – men are 13% more likely to be affected by AF during their lifetime than women5
  • Older age1,24


What Are the Symptoms of AF?


1. Kirchhof P, Benussi S, Kotecha D, Ahlsson A, Atar D et al. (2016) 2016 ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with EACTS. Eur Heart J 37 (38): 2893-2962. 2. Cedars-Sinai, 3. Naser N, Dilic M, Durak A, Kulic M, Pepic E et al. (2017) The Impact of Risk Factors and Comorbidities on The Incidence of Atrial Fibrillation. Mater Sociomed 29 (4): 231-236. 4. Lip GY, Fauchier L, Freedman SB et al. (2016) Atrial Fibrillation Nat Rev Dis Primers. Mar 31;2:16016. 5. Lloyd-Jones DM, Wang TJ, Leip EP, Larson MG, Levy D et al. (2004) Lifetime risk for development of atrial fibrillation: the Framingham Heart Study. Circulation 110 (9): 1042-104. 6. Allan V et al (2017) Are cardiovascular risk factors also associated with the incidence of atrial fibrillation? A systematic review and field synopsis of 23 factors in 32 population-based cohorts of 20 million participants. Thromb Haemost. May 3;117(5):837-850. 7.Boriani G, Proietti M (2017) Atrial fibrillation prevention: an appraisal of current evidence. Heart (0):1–6. 8. Andrade J, Khairy P, Dobrev D, Nattel S (2014) The clinical profile and pathophysiology of atrial fibrillation: relationships among clinical features, epidemiology, and mechanisms. Circ Res 114 (9): 1453-1468. 9. Zoni-Berisso M, Lercari F, Carazza T, Domenicucci S (2014) Epidemiology of atrial fibrillation: European perspective. Clin Epidemiol 6 213-220. 10. Ziff OJ, Carter PR, McGowan J, Uppal H, Chandran S et al. (2018) The interplay between atrial fibrillation and heart failure on long-term mortality and length of stay: Insights from the, United Kingdom ACALM registry International Journal of Cardiology , Volume 252 , 117 - 121. 11. Batul SA, Gopinathannair (2017) Atrial Fibrillation in Heart Failure: a Therapeutic Challenge of Our Times Korean Circ J. 2017 Sep;47(5):644-662. 12. Masarone D, Limongelli G, Rubino M, Valente F, Vastarella R et al. (2017) Management of Arrhythmias in Heart Failure. J Cardiovasc Dev Dis 4 (1): 13. Wang TJ, Larson MG, Levy D, Vasan RS, Leip EP et al. (2003) Temporal relations of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure and their joint influence on mortality: the Framingham Heart Study. Circulation 107 (23): 2920-2925. 14. Boriani G, Laroche C, Diemberger I, Fantecchi E, Popescu MI et al. (2015) Asymptomatic atrial fibrillation: clinical correlates, management, and outcomes in the EORP-AF Pilot General Registry. Am J Med 128 (5): 509-518 e502. 15. Violi F, Soliman EZ, Pignatelli P, Pastori D (2016) Atrial Fibrillation and Myocardial Infarction: A Systematic Review and Appraisal of Pathophysiologic Mechanisms. J Am Heart Assoc 5 (5). 16. Omae T, Inada E (2018) New-onset atrial fibrillation: an update. J Anesth Jun;32(3):414-424. 17. Chebbout R, Heywood EG, Drake TM, Wild JRL, Lee J et al. (2018) A systematic review of the incidence of and risk factors for postoperative atrial fibrillation following general surgery. Anaesthesia 73 (4): 490-498. 18. Marulanda-Londono E, Chaturvedi S (2017) The Interplay between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Atrial Fibrillation. Front Neurol 8:668. 19. Calkins H, Hindricks G, Cappato R, Kim YH, Saad EB et al. (2017) 2017 HRS/EHRA/ECAS/APHRS/SOLAECE expert consensus statement on catheter and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation. Heart Rhythm 14 (10): e275-e444. 20. Ruigomez A, Johansson S, Wallander MA, Garcia Rodriguez LA (2005) Predictors and prognosis of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in general practice in the UK. BMC Cardiovasc Disord 5:20. 21. Nystrom PK, Carlsson AC, Leander K, de Faire U, Hellenius ML et al. (2015) Obesity, metabolic syndrome and risk of atrial fibrillation: a Swedish, prospective cohort study. PLoS One 10 (5): e0127111. 22. Paludan-Muller C, Svendsen JH, Olesen MS (2016) The role of common genetic variants in atrial fibrillation. J Electrocardiol 49 (6): 864-870. 23. Gundlund A, Fosbol EL, Kim S, Fonarow GC, Gersh BJ et al. (2016) Family history of atrial fibrillation is associated with earlier-onset and more symptomatic atrial fibrillation: Results from the Outcomes Registry for Better Informed Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation (ORBIT-AF) registry. Am Heart J 175 28-35. 24. Zulkifly H, Lip GYH, Lane DA (2018) Epidemiology of atrial fibrillation. Int J Clin Pract e13070;

Disclaimer: The information featured here is not intended as medical advice, or to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

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