4 triggers that AF patients should be warned about

Researchers asked patients to rank 11 possible behaviours that preceded an AF episode

The most common triggers of atrial fibrillation are avoidable behaviours like drinking alcohol or coffee, a recent study suggests.


Researchers in the US surveyed 1295 patients with symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, asking them about 11 possible triggers.

These included: alcohol, caffeine, lack of sleep, exercise, not exercising, consuming cold beverages, consuming cold foods, high sodium diet, consuming large meals, dehydration, and lying on one's left side.

About three-quarters of the patients said at least one of those behaviours triggered AF some or all of the time.

The researchers said it was possible the behaviors didn't actually trigger the episodes, but instead made the symptoms worse.

"Many, if not most, of these triggers are modifiable, and we feel theoretically the patient does have some power to potentially influence the probability of an episode occurring," said co-author Dr Gregory Marcus, from the University of California in San Francisco.

"While there has been quite a bit of research investigating the root cause of the first diagnosis of [atrial fibrillation], there has not been sufficient investigation into understanding why an episode happens when it happens.”

Here’s the top four triggers as cited by survey participants
  1. Drinking alcohol (35% of patients)
  2. Drinking coffee (28%)
  3. Exercise (23%)
  4. Lack of sleep (21%)

More information: Heart Rhythm 2019