Are there times when an AFib episode is just going to happen?

I've had plenty of AFib episodes in the past seven years and most of them could be traced to a trigger. I've had all sorts - alcohol, eating just before bedtime, lying on my left hand side or on my back or stomach, drinking very cold water and stress to name but a few.

However, sometimes I go into fibrillation and there doesn't have to be a trigger (or one that is obvious to me at least). Take yesterday for example, apart from a small bag of crisps at lunchtime, I think I ate well with porridge for breakfast, salmon with pasta salad for my main meal and some fruit throughout the day, but, from about 5pm onwards, I started experiencing plenty of ectopic beats. This is often a sign that an AFib episode is on the way and, sure enough, my heart started playing up as soon as I laid on my bed on my right hand side to watch some TV at about 9pm.

I managed to stave that episode off by walking up and down stairs a few times, but about an hour and half later I went to bed and slipped into AFib about ten minutes later (again while lying on my right hand side. I've been in AFib ever since and this time I get the definite feeling that there was nothing I could do to avoid it - does that often happen with you?

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25 Replies

  • Hello, yes that sometimes happens to me. I thought that I had sussed out all of my 'triggers' then out of the blue ad kicked in for no apparent reason. That's the problem, it's such a rogue beast. I'm due to have an ablation 29th of this month so have my fingers crossed. I hate taking drugs a n can't take anti coagulants as had a brain bleed last year. Hope things settle down soon for you.

  • Maybe your AFib is just getting worse? Mine did and eventually I had it round the clock and it didn't need any triggers at all, except to change the severity. Have you got an ablation booked, or maybe a change/increase in drugs is required?


  • Same here, my pattern was very similar, it tends to be progressive.

  • Hi Tobw - Like you I try to link my PAF attacks to something I've eaten or done. I know some people on this forum say not to do this, but it gives me hope of a simple cure. I too get periods where my PAF starts off for no apparent reason, such as recently when I had been sat at my PC for a while and was quiet and calm. I told myself it was because I was slouching and compressing my insides. I wonder if the heart doesn't like being compressed! Now I make sure I sit up correctly.

    I avoid any foods that I think are triggers i.e. if I have more than two episodes after eating something I avoid it. Oddly, blueberries that we are told are so healthy trigger mine and any artificial additives to food. I'm just trying a lactose free diet and also taking probiotic tablets as recommended by others on this site. Must say (and I hate to brag and tempt fate) that I've been feeling extremely well lately. My PAF attacks happen every 5 to 6 weeks and I wonder why they should be so regular. Also they always start when I'm sitting quietly or in bed. I'll see if the new diet helps and report back.


  • Beyond stress, I cannot identify triggers.

    I have seen my EP twice now. Each time he has mentioned heart fibrillation when you aren't aware that it's happening. This is likely during sleep or when you're distracted. I was fitted with a 7 day loop recorder, essentially a permanent ECG monitor. This picked up 3 episodes, one of which apparently lasted 36 hours. This didn't square with the diary that I had filled in. So essentially things are worse than I thought!!

  • I have said for years that searching for triggers is a great way to insanity. They are just that, triggers and only affect you because you have AF.. It may be possible to limit your events by avoiding obvious triggers but it will bite you in the end whatever you do. Much better to get sorted with the right drugs or an ablation and live your life normally. AF begets AF so it will ALWAYS become more frequent unless you do something positive about it.


  • Bob - Sorry but you sound a bit dictatorial. We are all entitled to our opinions and I think it's wrong to crush members dreams of finding a simple cure. Don't you realise the hope it gives us?


  • Thank you Jean. We've seen so many advances in medications and other treatments for AF and other conditions already. When I had heart surgery nearly two years ago I had pre-existing AF and was worried about anti-coagulation post-op. The surgeon was very reassuring that quote "the drugs are getting better all the time". We may be wanting to delude ourselves, but as you say, we are all looking for a simple cure and why shouldn't we?

  • Sorry Jean I don't want to burst anybody's bubble but the reality AT THE MOMENT is that ablation stands the best chance of improving QOL and note I don't ever use the word cure even of myself. If your condition can be improved by avoiding odd things then great but it doesn't solve the basic problem that you have AF. Yes Mrspat there have been great advances in treatment of AF or to be more accurate AF IS treated now whereas 20 years ago you would have been told to go and get on with it as it was only a minor inconvenience. The progress in the last ten years has in no small way been due to the efforts of Arrhythmia Alliance and AF Association banging on doors and campaigning in government for a better deal for us arrhythmia patients. The link with Stroke and the campaign for more anticoagulation of AF patients is saving lives since 2007. Yes that is how recently the link was promoted. In 2008 I firmly believed that we were on the brink of a major breakthrough from the things I was hearing but it doesn't seem to have happened , hence my reality check. Far better to accept what you now are and learn to live with it than hoping for a lottery win surely?


  • I can't accept that advances in AF treatment or even a cure are as remote as winning the lottery (and I do that as well!). Saying that you have to accept what you are and learn to live with it (and incidentally I'm a person and not a patient) is as bad as those doctors who told you 20 years ago to go and get on with a minor inconvenience. The whole issue of stroke risk and anticoagulation would be a side issue if efforts were concentrated elsewhere. I've said before that I think there is a bit of an ablation and anticoagulation one size fits all point of view, when clearly there are other treatments that suit other people better.

  • OK I give up, Yes we are all entitled to opinions and I do always hope for the best. There is a huge amount of research going on believe me not only in UK and USA but all over the world and one day maybe we will crack it. I have to accept what I am and live with my other health issues or I might as well give up now. I would love to be 37 again but that isn't going to happen so I learn to live with my limitations and still enjoy every day to the full. End of as they say.


  • Thanks very much for your replies, to answer a few of the issues raised. Koll, my AFib has got a bit worse I think, but I've been having these unexplained episodes from 2007 when I first became aware that something was going on with my heart. I can relate to what jeanjeannie says in that I sometimes go into AFib when "slouching" and, whereas my episodes tended to be three months or so apart, they now seem to be coming along every six to eight weeks - I also started having a daily drink of blueberry juice about a week and a half ago and look what's happened!

  • With blueberries, I wonder whether it's just simply the sugar content. And I wonder what role the mind plays with triggers? ergo, I love chocolate, I eat loads, it never gives me a problem, probably because I don't want it to and I'm not looking for the trigger. Or, I enjoy it so much my release of endorphines or whatever creates pleasure, overrides the effect of the chocolate. Who cares anyway :-)

  • I've had episodes after eating chocolate, but, obviously, it was something else that was the trigger on those occasions!

  • I have been wondering the same thing, because my AF episodes seem to pop up at very regular intervals. I wonder whether there is some increasing sensitivity that eventually can be triggered by a fairly small or inconsequential thing. My beloved dog died recently, very suddenly, shortly after I'd had a bout of AF. Did I go into AF? Nope. But in a few weeks, when an episode is 'due', I bet you anything that looking the wrong way out of the window or something equally silly will set it off. I plan to ignore the darn stuff and just keep taking the tablets!


  • That fairly accurately describes me too. I don't think any one thing is responsible now and feel much better since I have stopped thinking about it. I do also think it is to do with it getting worse . Much better in my case to focus on meds and procedures to help stop it. X

  • Mine is primarily exercise induced - I'm a runner. Sometimes though, when I'm running it'll start and stay for a while - and then go and sometimes it'll stay for the whole run. Then sometimes it'll stop when I stop running and sometimes it won't and it'll last the whole day. But then, when it's been going all one day into the evening and then stops, I get a AF free run then next day. It can happen if I run up the stairs too quickly or sometimes not. For me, I find the lack of pattern a huge issue.

  • I never found out what triggered mine, just knew despite being chocoholic it wasn't that. Sure enough have given up chocolate and lost weight and it has got more troublesome. Lol


  • Get back on the choccy Eileen. Sandra

  • G'day Tobw,

    I deliberately searched extensively for triggers once I'd identified an AF event followed food, not all food but some. My biggest single issue was bloating, extensive bloating and very painful and I could feel pressure on my heart then AF would kick in. There were other digestive issues too, burping extensively, very loud intestinal gurgling and diahrrea. My GP at the time checked me out for coeliac disease and IBS - all clear. He offered me further tests but I said no. Instead I consulted a Nutritionst and was prescribed a probiotic food supplement (in powder form), a gluten free diet and also a FODMAPS (Google it for more info) diet. It has taken about 3 years or so to get my gut back into a healthy state and I now cannot recall my last AF event. Sometimes I'm mixing socially and come unstuck when I've eaten something quite innocently - or to test how I go i.e. was entertained by friends who knew about my diet but forgot to include 'my stuff' - as happened just recently and I was bloating and in pain within 90 minutes, mercifully no AF. This lasted a week.

    If I ate and I am quoting you - porridge, pasta salad and most fruit I'd be quite unwell and would bloat - very quickly ! In fact for me 5 or 7 fruit and veg every day - contrary to what the so called experts say - would be a disaster. Why did I persue the hunt for triggers - because I have never been an unwell person in my life, always active, always eaten everything and anything - might not necessarily have been a healthy diet - but it wasn't terribly unhealthy either. Also I learned about the vagal nerve from AF'ers on the now defunct Yahoo AF Group website. I also learned from articles on the digestive system and research being conducted on the digestive system in USA. Looking back, I've had a right knee cartilidge removed due to a sporting accident, had a digestive issue with salads in my mid thirties and a kidney issue in my late 20's which turned out to be diet related and since then I've never been able to eat citrus fruit. (I had a build up of crystals in the uretha between kidney and bladder). Apart from that - only occasional acts of DIY carelessness. But never any invasive surgery and I certainly didn't intend to start having invasive surgery now - not unless its a last resort. In other words having gone down the discussion of ablation and found out what was involved I didn't want my heart barbequed. Unless there was nothing else left. Basically, I just refused to accept that there was anything wrong with me. So, 5 years after I was diagnosed I now can't remember my last AF event. Thats another thing - I was diagnosed and treatment started 9 hours after the first onset, yes that bloody quick. I regard myself as fortunate that my GP at the time and the East Surrey Hospital A & E team were so 'on the ball'. No stuffing around like some poor sufferers on this website for 12 months or longer before they get a diagnosis and some sort of treatment started. The only thing I'm willing to accept is following family research there may be a genetic predisposition to AF but thats only something I discovered in the last two years, well after I started down the diet road.

    Good luck.

    Aussie John

  • dont think about it too much else it takes over your daily living. It will come and go as it pleases in my exoperience

  • Everyone is different but for me the only trigger I could find was being alive. I don't really want to do anything about that. Ectopic beats often preceded an attack with me, usually over several days. A magnesium supplement did seem to help the attacks not be quite so frequent or at least I like to think so.

  • Hi all, I've got a mate that told me he Had AF., when he was very young, ie., 13 years old. He told me that it stopped when he was in his thirties and he's now 64, smokes, has been a welder most of his life, so who knows in his case what causes it to just stop for such a long time. I started with AF., in May 2012 after I moved into a sheltered housing complex. The flat they gave me was located above a communal laundry and there was a 100mm ventilation pipe exiting the laundry wall and directly beneath my living room windows. This pipe was from a gas fired commercial clothes dryer, which was pumping out 200cfm (cubic feet a minute) of fumes including carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, plus obnoxious fumes from fabric softeners, I say obnoxious because everyone loves the smell of fabric softeners, but after suffering 12 months of that being pumped out under my windows it was unbereable. I had to get in touch with the housing ombudsman to get the housing association to remove the dryer and replace it with a condensing dryer. The old dryer was when I started to get episodes of AF., it really annoys me as I've always looked after my health, never smoked, eat a very healthy diet, am a keep fit enthusiast, am 65 years old, weigh 68kg., same as when I was 20 years old. What I've found with most cardiologists is they all seem to think that its an age thing that causes AF. So I'm now waiting to go into have a rewire, (cryo) and hopefully it will get rid of this AF., which incidently I only get very rarely now. The last cardiologist that I saw, who read the previous cardiologists report, which found a 4% incidence of AF., on a 7 day ECG. I got the impression that he tried to talk me out of having ablation, which was recomended from the previous cardiologist. I just want the chance to correct this electrical short circuit, so that I can get off drugs and get my regular life back, which includes working subsea. Apologies if there's any spelling mistakes, damn touch screen tablet.

    Regards John

  • I know that svt can reduce as people get older, wish the same was true for af.There is however no reason why it is not possible,

  • I went for years like you, wondering what was the trigger, and realize that esophageal irritation is definitely one. However, the biggest triggers (said doc) are aging and high blood pressure. Sure enough, blood pressure increasing and becoming 67, over the past year and a half I went from occasional blips to 100% afib--all the time. Had an ablation (six areas) in September and afib free ever since. I'm now experimenting with reducing the antiarrhythmia drug, flecainide, and so far, so good. My brother has had to have the ablation three times, however! He's six years younger than I, so every individual has their own story.

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