Any person, ranging from children to adults, can develop atrial fibrillation. Because the likelihood of AFib increases with age and people are living longer today, medical researchers predict the number of AFib cases will rise dramatically over the next few years. Even though AFib clearly increases the risks of heart-related death and stroke, many patients do not fully recognize the potentially serious consequences.
Who is at higher risk? Typically people who have one or more of the following conditions are at higher risk for AFib:
- Athletes AFib is common in athletes and can be triggered by a rapid heart rate called a supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
- Advanced age The number of adults developing AFib increases markedly with older age. Atrial fibrillation in children is rare, but it can and does happen.
- Underlying heart disease Anyone with heart disease, including valve problems, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, acute coronary syndrome, Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome and history of heart attack. Additionally, atrial fibrillation is the most common complication after heart surgery.
- High blood pressure Longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure can increase your risk for AFib.
- Drinking alcohol Binge drinking (having five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks for women) may put you at higher risk for AFib.
- Sleep apnea Although sleep apnea isn’t proven to cause AFib, studies show a strong link between obstructive sleep apnea and AFib. Often, treating the apnea can improve AFib.
- Family history Having a family member with AFib increases your chances of being diagnosed.
- Other chronic conditions Others at risk are people with thyroid problems, diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical problems.
This content was last reviewed on 06/24/14.