How did it happen : Does anyone remember when... - AF Association

AF Association

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How did it happen


Does anyone remember when they first experienced A fib ? Did something trigger this episode ? Did it happen over a period of time after say, an illness, operation ? How does it start so quickly, in a heart beat literally ? One minute you're fine and the next , well we know the rest . I've read that 25% of the population have some sort of heart condition and don't know it , so we must be the lucky ones on medication controlling our lives. I just wonder how one year on I got from there to here . A fit woman in her 50's , hardly drank, didn't smoke , just woke up in hospital and told I'd had a stroke by way of A fib that I never knew I had. I was one of that 25%. We seem to know more about aids and cancer than A fib . No one in the medical profession could give me any indication as to why A fib started , do we accept tha ' it's just one of the things ? ' thoughts anyone ........

18 Replies

AF is such a complex problem and no one size fits all. One needs a predisposition for it to happen and this can be either genetic or acquired. Many people who exercise more than is wise give themselves the changes to the atria which allow AF, for others it can be surgery, accident or any number of things or as you say just bad luck and one of those things. Some evidence has arisen that ibuprophen and its allies can cause changes which cause AF. The whole subject of AF is very new science and less than 20 years since it was considered to be a benign nuisance, It was not till 2007 that the link with stroke was noted so compared with cancer or aids it is new stuff. Sorry but the only advice I can give is to fully engage with the medics and discuss the problems with all and sundry by which means we can increase knowledge.


Terjo in reply to BobD

Where did you find out about ibuprofen. This sounds as though it could be very significant. I took ibuprofen as it was the only thing that mitigated attacks of migraine. I think I got onto it when it was first available to buy in chemists, but cannot remember when that was. Very interesting to learn about that, thank you Bob. Terry

BobDVolunteer in reply to Terjo

I think either earlier this year or late last there was a study came out of Denmark which was big in the national press. Can't be more specific but the office may be able to say.

My first documented encounter with AF was during my first ablation and the first time I heard it mentioned was when the consultant debriefed me.

I had had an occasional dodgy heartbeat for over 20 years before that and the first time I noticed it was while shopping in the supermarket. We had a discussion shortly after I joined this forum about the lighting in supermarkets being a trigger.

Two years ago I went to the GP's with another problem. He took my pulse for reasons unknown, and that was the start of my AF journey. (Permanent AF)

I'm one of the lucky ones as I have no symptoms and therefore very grateful AF was diagnosed. (The other problem has still to be sorted!)


Hi maxdog,I thought I was a healthy bloke,gave up smoking 25 years ago,walked every where when i could cycled 10 miles each day for work and felt quite normal until one Sunday morning got up did my usual jobs sat down with a cuppa then wam it hit me.After quite a few tests I was diagnosed with irregular heart beat then hiatus hernia and duerdenal ulcer then AF.The only thing before 12 months earlier I,d had an emeroid removed and been put on ibuprofen for 8 weeks for the pain,never really took any pain killers before not a pill man really so weather that had anything to do with it I don,t know but recently I,ve read about ibuprofen and such that they could have an effect on the heart.It,s a funny subject and I hope one day someone will discover the proper causes of AF

I'm so sorry that you found out by being so ill and glad that you are now getting treated.

Couldn't really say it was the first time I experienced it, as lots of things fall in to place with hindsight, I've had it years but was only diagnosed in Jan this year. As Bob says a predisposition is required. I think there is a long line of factors leading to where I am now, that I can see from this end. I tend to deal in the where I am now and how to deal with it.

I knew I had had a significant 'incident' in August 2013, I had been tired at work and was offered a ProPlus (from a woman who takes them everyday??) - the first one I had ever had. A few hours later I felt a bit light headed but carried on with my evening plans a heavy carvery meal with wine with friends. I felt so strange (spaced out, cold sweat, palpitations, urgent need to wee) I wrote it all down and went to the doctors only to be told I was having a panic attack. I could barely move without feeling I was going to pass out. So was it the tiredness? The low heart rate I have (that would show as tiredness)? The caffine/Proplus? The late heavy meal? The alcohol? Probably all of them contributed towards a perfect storm for AF I now know. I recall having really bad reactions to decongestants and just stopping using them years before. I think these were just triggering a bad episode of a condition I already had not the start of it.

My experience of AF has been fast AF episodes that you couldn't possibly know you weren't having, they are really debilitating, I have been surprised by the level of non-symptomatic AF out there.

Hope you are feeling better at the moment and your health improves.


I was same fit and healthy looked after myself didn't drink alcohol no caffeine no smoking and ate well . Interesting to see that over exercing can contribute to having AF as I did lots of this so maybe this is why I am now burdened with this !


G'day 01maxdog,

Yeah. Me, I remember so clearly. It was 6 January 2010. Aged 65. I had led a relatively fit and healthy life, only once in hospital for surgery (right knee cartilidge was removed and knee joint cleaned up). Plenty of visits to A & E usually arising from acts of DIY carelessness around the home and once or twice for tests for digestive issues.

Woke up on 6 Jan, made cuppa prior to going to work ... all the usual stuff felt fine. Tried to go to work but 10 inches of snow stopped that. Decided to do some clearing up, shredded some private papers and therefore had been sitting in a chair, bent over shredder for some 20 minutes. Finished the job and sat back in chair feeling most 'odd/weird', like I was getting the onset of a cold/ flu, something like that. As the morning wore on I got worse and had to return to bed. Weird sensations then happened in my chest. Started to self monitor my blood pressure - it was totally and unbelievably erratic. I have an Omron digital BP monitor. The readings it gave varied from assorted error messages to falling BP. Prior to this event my BP averaged around 136/80 - by late afternoon it was down to 90/50 and my heart rate was increasing. It eventually peaked at 160 bpm. Rang my GP who saw me immediately and put me straight into hospital. So, within 9 hours of onset I was diagnosed with AF and treatment started. The speed and accuracy of this diagnosis - in my view - has significantly contributed to my experiencing a less serious AF journey than others do.

Thinking back though I now realise I had 2 and half years of palpitations. Massive palpitations, again, weird stuff - like I got an almighty kick in the chest from a mule. Then in micro seconds an all over warm feeling all over the top of the head which throbbed. No going hot/cold, no feeling faint, no variation to vision, no loss of any form of coordination ... nothing ! Then it was all over and I was back to normal. This might happen daily and it might not - it as all totally unpredictable.

Then I heard a radio programme about the effects of mobile phones on health. (Google - 'Electrosensitivity). For most of the 2 and half years of palpitations I carried my mobile phone in my left hand shirt pocket (approximately over my heart). At this time I drove buses full time and on shift work so it was virtually impossible to get to my GP for an ECG when I had palpitations and when I did it recorded everything normal. After that radio programme I stopped carrying my mobile in my shirt pocket. This changed of course in hospital when the ECG did pick up AF.

Then as BobD says - there is genetics. Looking at my family history (well, the paternal side of the family) I am bound to say I suspect a genetic predisposition to AF - but - I have to say that possibly the genetic predisposition may well have remained dormant if I weren't carrying my mobile in my shirt pocket for so long. So now we go back to 'Electrosensitivity' - the heart is a muscle which has both mechanical and electronic functions - why would it not be affected by electro type issues. Look around the average home and office today - start with WiFi and work your way around the amount of electro stuff that's there and draw your own conclusions. Of course the Telecommunications industry and trade associations would deny this - but they have a vested interest in denying it.

You state that no one in the medical profession can tell you why AF started .... I agree .... the medical profession hasn't got a bloody clue, not a bloody clue. And frankly, they are not likely too have. They are preoccupied with fixing (and often they don't do that very well) the condition .... they follow the FORD principle (Fix Or Repair Daily). And don't get me wrong its vital they do this FORD stuff in order to return to the patient that persons quality of life. BUT - this country (despite what the politicians would have you believe) along with many in Europe is financially broke - gutted - so money isn't gonna be available for AF orientated medical research. For gods sake there is hardly enough loot to fund the NHS now without chucking in research projects ! But, until AF is properly researched the medical world is never gonna understand it and therefore will never be able to offer advice or direction other than FORD :-)

There is a desperate need for this hydra headed monster of a medical condition to be researched but I'm afraid it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Apologies for the length of this rambling..... BUT ..... you did ask for thoughts. :-)


jeanjeannie50 in reply to Hidden

Bit of a rant John, but I'm with you. Totally agree with all you've said. Jean

Last March, I'd harboured a virus for 3 months which swelled my left atrium and kicked off AF. However, I had a funny turn back in '97 after a 4 day bender. Then 2 more AF episodes 2004/2005 one caused by a menopausal hot flash in my sleep, the other brought on by a fright in a hotel in Istanbul on falling asleep when they decided to test the fire alarms! Obviously I was predisposed to getting them no matter the cause! :-D :-D

My husband and I were only talking about this this morning. He reminded me that I used to have palpitations for no reason in my 20's (40 years ago), then in my 40's my heart rate used to shoot up during exercise (over 200 bpm) and in my 50's during a pre op (in Belgium), the consultant told me that my heart was putting in extra beats but lots of people were like that. It was only about 5 years ago by pure chance that AF was diagnosed (in Namibia.) By then I had an enlarged heart as well. So who knows how long I have had AF. My Grandmother used to have 'turns' and died suddenly from a stroke at 62 and my mother had AF. I am in permanent AF and don't feel the palpitations as I used to although symptomatic in other ways.

I was in my early 70s (about 4 years ago) when one night I woke up numerous times to go to bathroom; in AM while starting to get breakfast found myself on the floor. I had fainted. This happened about once or twice a month. I went to clinic and they said that I was dehydrated. Then, 2 1/2 years ago I was at Drs. about something else and he listened to my heart and took my pulse. Sent me directly to cardiologist who did ekg, put me on lovenox plus some warfarin and did a cardioversion the next AM. I knew all along that something was wrong; didn't have palpitations but felt awful at times. I thought it was blood pressure.

Heather R

I remember the night I first went into AF in 2010 aged 54. I had been doing a lot of cleaning and was outside sweeping the concrete and cleaning up leaves it was late. Hubby had gone to work...I thought I will go inside now and have a little ice-cream wafer thingy. Sat down on the couch probably slumped into it as it was low and whammo into AF I went..... called Ambos myself and got the lady across the road to come over...heart rate was 210 bpm and scary.....went into hospital and reverted next day after potassium digoxin and mag replacement and change of meds....but that wasn't ever going to stay ok as it was sotolol and this then kicked asthma into a problem so after 4 years of crappy attacks and SVT in between just had an ablation and am very nervous as posted on forum yes I remember

Thank you all for your thoughts and comments. There seems to be a thread running through these that most of us didn't know we were in A fib until some other ailment / condition became apparent . Did that cause the A fib or were we already in A fib ? John , i like your " rant" and agree that more research on this needs to be done. I know that prior to my stroke I experienced difficulty climbing stairs . Not breathless ness as such , more a heaviness across my lungs making me feel weak , and a heaviness in my legs making lifting them an effort . I thought I was unfit as I hadn't been to the gym for a couple of months !!! Two months before I had a hemorrhoidectomy and my recovery was dreadful , 10 days spent in the bathroom. My heart was fine before the op, but did the strain after affect my heart ? Who knows . Hindsight is a wonderful thing, would I have gone ahead with the op ? Is my A fib a by product of that ? Was it always going to happen to me ?

I just know that this is the hand I've been dealt and I just have to get on with it !



I remember it very clear. I was Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve (as I always did), without a clue what to buy. Ended up on the shop floor with people saying I must be drunk, great !!!! Off to A&E and into coronary ward for 8 days. That wasn't when AF started, but that's what triggered the bad episode ending up with a diagnosis. I was always ill at Christmas with something or other.

I do all Christmas shopping (which is very little) on Amazon now :-)



Like your comment Koll ! So what caused you to collapse in the shop ? You must have been buying something expensive !!!!

Obviously a heart condition ...........

Hidden in reply to 01maxdog

Yes it was the stress of spending money, not good :-)

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