Lifestyle choices that trigger AF are changeable, study finds

February 25, 2019

Typical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart are chaotic in atrial fibrillation (AF), causing blood clot formation – just one blood clot can cause a stroke. An estimated one in four adults over age 40 is at risk of AF, with a further 6 million people in the US to have the condition by 2050.

AF has no symptoms and can remain undetected, but early detection mitigates the risk of stroke and other complications, such as a heart attack. Previous research has determined predictors of AF development, including age, gender,other cardiovascular dysfunctions, and lifestyle factors such as alcohol and smoking.

A recent survey has found that the lifestyle factors influencing AF are modifiable, as identified by researchers at UC San Francisco (UCSF). Senior author Gregory Marcus, M.D., MAS, a UCSF Health cardiologist and associate chief of cardiology for research in the UCSF, has said that this study focuses on specific exposures of AF. It appearson the online journal Heart Rhythm.

The idea arose from a group of AF patients, who are members of the Health eHeart Alliance, a patient-powered research network supported by the UCSF-led Health eHeart Study. The researchers surveyed 1,295 patients from the group on whether they had experienced an AF episode from any 11 potential triggers as identified by an AF patient review board.

Data showed that nearly 74% of patients reported AF triggers – most commonly from controllable factors like alcohol, caffeine, exercise and lack of sleep. Younger patients, women and those with AF family history were more likely to report experiencing irregular heartbeats after certain triggers. Notably, patients with AF triggers had 71% lower odds of congestive heart failure.

Marcus said the study revealed a need for better understanding of individual-level triggers of AF, including gene-environment interactions that can later reduce health care use for AF and improve quality of life.The data also indicates potential ways to prevent and reduce AF episodes.

Marcus expects to launch another app-based study in 2019 for patients with intermittent (paroxysmal) AF and a smartphone to systemically test triggers and track AF symptoms and exposures.

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Category: Education, Features

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