Atrial Fibrillation (cont.)

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What are the risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation?

There are many risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation. These risk factors are:

  • Increased age (1% of people over 60 years of age have atrial fibrillation)
  • Coronary heart disease (including heart attack)
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart muscle function (including congestive heart failure)
  • Disease of the mitral valve between the left and right ventricle
  • An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or overdose of thyroid medication
  • Low amounts of oxygen in the blood, for example, as occurs with lung diseases such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart (pericarditis)
  • Blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolism)
  • Chronic lung diseases (emphysema, asthma, COPD)
  • Excessive intake of alcohol (alcoholism)
  • Stimulant drug use such as cocaine or decongestants
  • Recent heart or lung surgery
  • Abnormal heart structure from the time of birth (congenital heart disease)

About 1 in 10,000 otherwise healthy, young adults have atrial fibrillation without any apparent cause or underlying heart disease. Atrial fibrillation in these individuals usually is intermittent, but can become chronic in 25%. This condition is referred to as lone atrial fibrillation. Stress, alcohol, tobacco, or use of stimulants may play a role in causing lone atrial fibrillation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2013

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