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Who Is at Risk for Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) affects millions of people, and the number is rising. Men are more likely than women to have the condition. In the United States, AF is more common among Whites than African Americans or Hispanic Americans.

The risk of AF increases as you age. This is mostly because your risk for heart disease and other conditions that can cause AF also increases as you age. However, about half of the people who have AF are younger than 75.

AF is uncommon in children.

Major Risk Factors

AF is more common in people who have:

AF also is more common in people who are having heart attacks or who have just had surgery.

Other Risk Factors

Other conditions that raise your risk for AF include hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), obesity, diabetes, and lung disease.

Certain factors also can raise your risk for AF. For example, drinking large amounts of alcohol, especially binge drinking, raises your risk. Even modest amounts of alcohol can trigger AF in some people. Caffeine or psychological stress also may trigger AF in some people.

Some data suggest that people who have sleep apnea are at greater risk for AF. Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

Metabolic syndrome also raises your risk for AF. Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for CHD and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.

Research suggests that people who receive high-dose steroid therapy are at increased risk for AF. This therapy is used for asthma and some inflammatory conditions. It may act as a trigger in people who have other AF risk factors.

Genetic factors also may play a role in causing AF. However, their role isn't fully known.

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Atrial Fibrillation Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Atrial Fibrillation, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


Atrial Fibrillation in the News

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July 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.