People don’t always realise when they’re experiencing atrial fibrillation, or AFib, but some feel unpleasant chest palpitations or a racing, irregular heartbeat.
Some patients have AFib 24 hours a day. In others, the irregular heartbeat is “paroxysmal,” that is, it comes and goes. For the current study, reported in the journal Heart Rhythm, researchers surveyed 1,295 patients with symptomatic paroxysmal AFib and found the most common behaviours that triggered episodes of the arrhythmia were alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption and exercise.
The survey asked about 11 possible triggers: 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-fourths of the patients said at least one of those behaviours triggered AFib some or all of the time.
Alcohol consumption was cited by 35 per cent, followed by coffee drinking (28 per cent), exercise (23 per cent) and lack of sleep (21 per cent).
The researchers say it’s possible the behaviours don’t actually trigger the episodes but instead make the symptoms worse.
The study wasn’t designed to tell whether cutting back on these triggers would reduce the frequency of AFib episodes.