If you are experiencing a fluttering in your chest or feel like your heart is racing, you may have atrial fibrillation (AFib). While AFib is not life-threatening by itself, it could increase your risk of other life-threatening diseases, such as stroke. To help with prevention, learn what can trigger your AFib.
Physical and Emotional Stress
Stress can activate or even worsen AFib symptoms. It comes in two forms: physical and emotional. Physical stress can stop the body from functioning as well as it usually would, while emotional stress can activate the body’s fight-or-flight response, increasing heart rate.
Physical stress happens if you have been sleep-deprived, sick, injured, or if you have gone through a surgery. Sometimes physical stress results in dehydration, and those changes in fluid levels could trigger an AFib episode.
Emotional stress occurs when you are experiencing negative emotions ranging from sadness to anger to fear. These can be caused by a variety of factors, such as work, relationships, and mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.
You can manage these potential AFib triggers by doing the following:
- Get enough rest. This is especially important in situations like travel or an increased workload, which could disrupt your sleep schedule.
- Engage in relaxing activities. These could include meditation, yoga, reading, or any calming activity that helps you unwind after a long day.
- Take care of your body. You can do this by following a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Make sure to stay hydrated while exercising. It is important to note that sudden increases in your exercise levels can trigger AFib, so before starting a new exercise regimen, you should consult a doctor.
Changes in your hormone levels can trigger AFib. In women, these changes could be normally happening during the menstrual cycle. Overactive thyroids, also known as hyperthyroidism, are another hormonal trigger of AFib. In hyperthyroidism, your body is pumping out more hormones than it should be, causing your heart rate to speed up.
If you live in an area with high air pollution levels, you may be at risk of having more AFib episodes than someone who lives in a less polluted area. This is because the small pollutants released by cars can enter deep into the lungs, triggering an attack.
Drugs and Drinks
Certain drugs and drinks could trigger your AFib by increasing heart rate or causing dehydration. These include the following:
- Over-the-counter drugs: Medications for cold and flu stimulate the heart, leading to AFib attacks.
- Recreational drugs: Drugs, like marijuana, can increase heart rate for prolonged periods of time.
- Alcohol: The number of drinks needed to experience AFib symptoms varies from person to person, but for some people, a single drink could be enough.
- Caffeine: As a stimulant, caffeine activates your central nervous system, leading to an increase in heart rate.
Don’t Wait—Talk to Your Doctor Now
A doctor can help you manage your AFib triggers. Schedule an appointment with Heart Rhythm Consultants today to talk to our team of experienced EP doctors.