Main causes of Atrial Fibrillation

Causes of afib

Atrial Fibrillation is a heart condition that can be traced to a variety of different causes.

While a number of the recognised causes are down to lifestyle or heart health issues, others can be a result of age or family history.

Issues with the structure of the heart are among the most common causes of Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

But other contributing factors can include coronary artery disease, whether a patient has had a previous heart attack, or undergone heart surgery in the past, or has a congenital heart defect that they were born with.


Physical stress

Heart valve problems can also lead to AF, which falls into four different recognised types of the condition: Paroxysmal, Persistent, Long-standing persistent, and Permanent. In addition, one type of AF can become another type as the condition progresses.

However, it is important that when planning treatments, physicians can determine whether the cause of AF in an individual is valvular or non-valvular.

Other considerations and conditions that can lead to a person developing AF are high blood pressure, lung diseases and physical stress. This may also be due to surgery, pneumonia or other illnesses.

The list of possible causes of AF can be extensive and also include issues such as a problem with the natural pacemaker of the heart, often referred to as sick sinus syndrome, or viral infections.


Lifestyle factors

Patients also need to be aware of lifestyle factors that may be an element in their AF, such as their use of stimulants and certain medications, their caffeine and alcohol consumption, or tobacco use.

Sleep apnoea – where the airways become relaxed and narrow while you sleep causing breathing to stop and start – can cause AF, as well as thyroid disease such as an overactive thyroid and other metabolic imbalances.

While it is common for people with AF not to show symptoms, or be aware they have the condition, it is not uncommon for some people to develop AF in circumstances where they have no known heart damage and do not have a history of cardiac problems.

If someone experiences chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, light-headedness, feeling lethargic, a reduced ability to exercise, weakness, and a shortness of breath, they may have AF and should consult their physician.


Increased risk

The possible causes of AF can be varied, and there are also risk factors that can increase the likelihood of someone developing AF (

Age is one of the most common risk factors and as people get older, they naturally become at greater risk.

Coronary artery disease and history of cardiac surgery increase the risk along with high blood pressure, particularly if it is not well controlled.

Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, and lung disease raise the risk, as well as being obese or overweight, and having a family history of AF.

Athletes who may be extremely fit, also run the risk of atrial fibrillation as it can be triggered by supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), or rapid heart rate.


Effective diagnosis

AF is remains relatively difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can be intermittent, with the traditional method via a physician checking the patient’s pulse.

A formal diagnosis ensures that effective treatment can begin as soon as possible and that is increasingly being supported via remote continuous monitoring through smart devices, such as the CART-I ring cardio tracker from Sky Labs, which has been shown to help in the detection of AF.

As the world’s first ring-type smart wearable heart rhythm monitoring medical device, it provides photoplethysmography (PPG) signals to continuously measure heart rate from screening the bloodstream 24/7 through the user’s finger to measure irregular pulse waves.