Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. But if you are suffering from atrial fibrillations, the upper chambers of your heart, known as the atria, beat irregularly or quiver, instead of beating rhythmically to send blood into the lower chambers of your heart, known as the ventricles. This is a very serious condition as it can result in the formation of clots, which may result in a stroke if they enter the bloodstream.1 The common possible causes of atrial fibrillation include the following:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Coronary heart disease
- Lung diseases
- Viral infections
- Previous heart surgery
- Sleep apnea
- Certain heart defects
- Sick sinus syndrome
- Metabolic imbalances
Afib is quite unpredictable. Though most of the time, you may experience an Afib attack due to certain common triggers like consumption of alcohol, exercise, smoking, and over-the-counter cough and cold medications, you may experience an attack without any trigger too. And there are lesser-known triggers of Afib you may not even be aware of.
What Are The Lesser-Known Triggers Of Afib?
When you are stressed, your body produces hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, which cause your “fight or flight” responses to take over. So you end up being worked up even when there is no actual threat present. This adds unnecessary stress to your heart and causes it to quiver.2
You should take measures to identify your personal stressors so that you can learn to avoid or defuse them. You can also practice yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques to lower your stress levels.
2. Medical Procedures
No one goes in for any kind of medical procedure, from getting a flu shot to getting a surgery, calmly. Even the thought of what you may have to experience when you visit the doctor may send your body into a panic mode, which can stimulate stress and trigger Afib.
To avoid such triggers, let your doctor know about your history of atrial fibrillation whenever you have any medical procedure. Also, be sure to clear all your doubts before going in for the procedure so that you know what to expect.
3. Air Pollution
Air pollution is also one of the culprits of Afib attacks. The fine particles present in the exhaust fumes of cars and power plants can trigger Afib when they make their way into your lungs.3
You should take measures to check the air quality daily before stepping out. You should stay indoors when air pollution is high. And if you don’t have the luxury to do so, protect your lungs with the help of masks.
Your heart needs adequate levels of minerals, which turn into electrolytes in the blood, in order to beat efficiently. When you are dehydrated, your electrolyte reserves get depleted, due to which you can suffer from an Afib attack.4
You should make it a habit of drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you are exercising, suffering from diarrhea, or it it’s hot outside.
5. The Holidays
Everyone looks forward to the holidays. But if you suffer from Afib, you should be extra cautious during that time. This is because, during the holidays, you have to face a lot of triggers like stress and fatigue. And in addition to that, you may end up drinking quite a bit of alcohol. Since alcohol irritates your heart, binge drinking may result in an Afib attack.5
You should know what your limits are so that you can stop drinking before you have an Afib attack. And if your heart is very sensitive to alcohol, even half a glass of wine can act as a trigger.
Traveling sounds like a fun thing to do. You get to relax and see new places. But traveling exposes you to a lot of Afib triggers like fatigue, stress, dehydration, and change in sleep patterns.
If you are traveling, make sure you don’t skimp out on your sleep. And also, stay hydrated and have proper meals so that you don’t overstress your body.
7. Recreational Drugs
Recreational drugs, especially stimulants, are a complete no-no if you suffer from Afib. Such drugs can stimulate your heart and can trigger an abnormal heartbeat for even hours.6
You should learn to make heart-healthy choices and should stay away from drugs as much as possible. And if you happen to give into peer pressure, make sure to keep everything in moderation.
|↑1||Atrial Fibrillation (AF). PubMed Health.|
|↑2||O’Neal, Wesley T., Waqas Qureshi, Suzanne E. Judd, Stephen P. Glasser, Lama Ghazi, LeaVonne Pulley, Virginia J. Howard, George Howard, and Elsayed Z. Soliman. “Perceived stress and atrial fibrillation: the REasons for geographic and racial differences in stroke study.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 49, no. 6. 2015.|
|↑3||Link, Mark S., Heike Luttmann-Gibson, Joel Schwartz, Murray A. Mittleman, Benjamin Wessler, Diane R. Gold, Douglas W. Dockery, and Francine Laden. “Acute exposure to air pollution triggers atrial fibrillation.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 62, no. 9. 2013.|
|↑4||Johansson, Cecilia, Erik Dahlqvist, Jonas Andersson, Jan-Håkan Jansson, and Lars Johansson. “Incidence, type of atrial fibrillation and risk factors for stroke: a population-based cohort study.” Clinical epidemiology 9. 2017.|
|↑5, ↑6||Atrial fibrillation. National Health Service.|