Why did AF happen to me?: I sometimes ask... - AF Association

AF Association

22,915 members27,752 posts

Why did AF happen to me?

David1964 profile image

I sometimes ask myself this question. As a young adult I drank plenty of booze, smoked cigarettes and drank coffee. I did so in the years between 1981 and 1995, when my AF was first diagnosed. I wonder now, whether this lifestyle contributed to my early development of AF. It may have done. Certainly it would not have helped. I wish I had led a healthier lifestyle, free from those stimulants. Still, what is done, cannot be undone.

Now, I drink very little booze - in fact none since my last ablation - and I do miss wine and beer and Guinness, and vodka! I also miss coffee - though decaf seems to fool my simple brain. I suspect that I might be able to tolerate the odd coffee in due course. I don't miss smoking - and don't intend to light up ever again.

I think that alcohol in particular is surely a known cause of AF, and young folks should be informed of the risks of drinking too much.

13 Replies

Hi David,who knows,i had a time in my life when i had too much to drink on a regular basis,im just 60 going on 20,had mine nearly 3 years made me very depressed.

I think somatosensory stress is also a very high indicator for hyoertension which is a known indicator for AF. Very little attention seems to be focussed on stress and its effects on our bodies, somehow it is perceived as a mind thing which couldn't be further from the truth.

I too have burnt the candle at both ends David and pushed my body to its limits with both exercise and alcohol, not at the same time :) but my hangover cure used to be a long run or gym session, which probably wasn't the best idea. I have friends who still do both and have no issues. I've read on this forum if we have predisposition to AF, then what we do in our life may contribute to it raising its ugly head, but it will probably come anyway. I think if I had been careful then maybe I wouldn't have AF yet, but the chances are I may have when I got older regardless. I've read on here somebody (Forget the name), has never drunk alcohol or abused there body much, but still has AF.

We have AF, so the best we can do now is to try and restrict future episodes.

Hello David - yes, it's so easy to look back and say what if . . . The thing is, in many cases we will never know where this blasted condition came from - and Jason is right - a predisposition in our heart's cells may bring it on no matter what we have done. I look back on my wine-drinking days and am glad I discovered so many lovely bottles and enjoyed them when I had the chance.

Young people (and many older ones) don't want to listen to advice regarding alcohol - after all it's a well-known fact that 'it won't happen to me, I'm OK'!! :)

The best advice I ever saw was on this forum (Bob or Ian, can't remember which) along the lines of 'accept what you have become and don't grieve for a past that may never return'. With that in mind it's a challenge to deal with the condition and adapt a lifestyle which allows us to live life to the full again - just in a different way.

BobD profile image

This really is a pointless exercise isn't it? In order to have AF you need a predisposition to it which can either be genetic or acquired. Over exercise as in endurance athletes is a known cause as it changes the shape of the atria and binge drinking has been found to cause it in some people. Once you have the predisposition then triggers can initiate events but whilst some people may be able to isolate individual triggers the condition is so mongrel that no two people experience it the same. Far better to learn how to live life with it. or get rid of it with ablation than agonise on a subject which as no answer. I smoked 40 Marboro a day for many years but gave up 30+ ago, never drank heavily but still enjoy a good wine or single malt, avoid caffeine but not for that reason, spent forty years in motor sport engineering with very high stress levels. Would I regret any of it based on getting AF. Not on your nelly as they say. I may only be nearly 70 but I have been awake longer than many people of 100 and loved every single minute of it.


Here here. This is the only way to think otherwise you can drive your self crazy. There are lots of things I could wish I had done differently but then I would have missed a lot of fabulous times and also, if someone had tried to stop me , I most definitely would not have listened. Now I intend to enjoy an interesting and exciting life in spite of A.F. I will have to make a few concessions to it admittedly but hopefully not too many. Having a proper treatment plan has definitely helped my state of mind and allowed me to move on as has finding this wonderful forum. X

I am going to take a leaf out of my dog's book and stop wondering how I got here or worrying about where i'm going, and chew all those lovely squeaky toys instead... Well, maybe not the last bit!

Beancounter profile image

David what about all those people who drink booze to excess, smoke themselves silly, and eat all the wrong things and live to 100 with never anything wrong with them?

As others have said it's a predisposition, and beating yourself up about the past serves no-one really least of all yourself.

Unlike smoking and cancer there is no provable link between lifestyle triggers and AF ( yet maybe?), we know some things MIGHT trigger it like being an ultra marathon runner, but then only a very small percentage of those actually get AF, so it can't be called a "cause". We know 10s of 1000s of young people booze to excess at times, but again only a very small % go on to get AF.

Don't get me wrong, I am certain that a healthier lifestyle will make us all live longer and healthier, but that's a choice we all make every day probably knowing the consequences even if we prefer not to think about them.

I think calling anything a "cause" is currently too flimsy with evidence, maybe when we know more perhaps I will revise my opinion

Be well


AF comes when it wants to.. I have never drunk, smoked or done drugs and I don't like tea or coffee yet I still had very symptomatic AF. I have a fairly low stress job along with normal cholesterol and blood pressure a healthy low salt diet and an active lifestyle. I'm seven months on from my ablation and I haven't had a murmur since . Don't look to the past for answers, look to the future. Four months ago I had aheart attack which really puts things into perspective. Last week I spent five days collecting and helping to transfer one hundred and eight grey faced petrels from an offshore island onto our mainland sanctuary. I had to fight really hard to get fit and healthy again but it has all been worthwhile..

BobD profile image
BobDVolunteer in reply to kakapo

Well done and very impressive. I agree that if you do have a REALLY dangerous illness it puts AF into better prospective but sadly many people find it too difficult to get past the first feelings of helplessness. I wouldn't recommend getting cancer to re-adjust your outlook mind you! For many years I have been banging on about the need for psychological support for people with AF but I seem to be a lone voice in the wilderness. (Cue Cliff Richards dum de dum de dum).

Timmo50 profile image
Timmo50 in reply to BobD

I think to some degree you are already giving psychological support on here and I congratulate you for that. But I take your point and have even thought about attempting to set something up in my area.

G'day David,

As I have said on here previously .. until such time as major research is done into this condition (AF) nobody is ever going to have the answers to the question you are posing (and indeed that I too have asked myself). Fact is its gonna take shedloads of loot to undertake this sort of research and that's loot this country doesn't have ... 'cos thanks to a combination of causes, including American bankers and people like Fred Goodwin ... this country is skint, broke. Then there is the question of competing demands for limited research funds into a range of medical conditions, some far more serious than AF. For god's sake this country can't even afford to look after its aged folk (most of whom aren't going to be a very great burden for much longer anyway) most of whom have made significant sacrifices in their youth - and now they are treated like crap. So the reality is ... you got AF ( I have, we all have) just accept it and move on. Jeez mate, you seldom can get a Cardiologist or EP (much less a GP) to agree to the link between the vagal nerve and food and the digestive system and AF why would you expect anything stunning like a cure much less get anyone to admit to a cause. I personally believe my cause was that (following family research) there is a genetic predisposition to AF but that it had been dormant all my life until such time (for a period of 2 years or so) I carried my mobile phone in my bus drivers uniform left hand shirt pocket, right over my heart .. until I heard a radio programme on Electrosensitivity. Then I stopped ... then massive palpitations for a year or so, then came AF. That was enough to convert my AF from dormant to active. However, then having got active AF I identified triggers - namely, food and the digestive system. Cause and triggers I believe are two different things. With the aid of a nutritionist I have dealt with food and digestive issues and now cannot recall my last AF event. No surgical intervention. Of course, I don't have a crystal ball so can't foretell how much longer this state will last given that I'm now 70 and still driving buses (part time).

Never mind - be pythonesq and look on the bright side of life :-)

Aussie John

Dear all - atrialafib, CDreamer, Jason1971, Finvola, BobD, dedeotti, Beancounter, kakapo, Timmo50, Aussie John and Eatsalottie - thank you all for the time you took to post a reply. I have read all replies and am still rereading and digesting those responses. I note the futility of agonising over the past, what might have been, and what might not have been. I note that AF happened to me, as a result of a predisposition, and that it may well have come to me at some stage, irrespective of how virtuous a life I led. I do recall that my dear old Mum complained of 'palpatations' and eventually died of complications following years of dementia. Perhaps she had an arrhythmia and I was therefore genetically predisposed to developing it. I fear the connection between dementia and AF, so there is even more of a basis to anticoagulate. I agree with others who remark that the condition and its causes are still so little understood. I do thank my lucky stars that I live in a Western country in the 21st century and have had access to ablations. Surely folks of my parents' generation, and for millennia before, and indeed in developing countries today did not/do not have access to ablation procedures and suffer terribly from AF and strokes. Today at the work Christmas party I danced like a crazed man, in celebration of normal sinus rhythm and ongoing healthy life.