New diagnosis aged 38

Hello! I've just been diagnosed with paroxysmal AF one week ago after having unusual symptoms (palpitations /fatigue/dizziness) on and off for a few years. Last weekend I was in AF for 27 hours but regained regular rhythm with beta blockers. Am now off work (fatigue) and awaiting follow -up appointments (have had ecg, echo, bloods, x-ray, am awaiting a 24 hr ecg). Bloods are all clear, echo showed no structural issues. So I feel conflicted. Glad that I have a diagnosis. Terrified that I have a heart condition that I'd never heard of. I've always been very active (I ran 4 marathons in 5 weeks across April and ran 43 miles of an ultramarathon at the end of May) and am terrified I'll have to give all this up. My echo suggested no muscle thickening (which would presumably be expected if it was running that caused this). So it just seems to have appeared from nowhere (I was getting palpitations before I ever did my first marathon!). Has anyone else out there been diagnosed at my age? I understand that I'm pretty young for all this to happen so would love for someone in the same boat to get in touch. I'm very anxious and worried... And don't want to express this anywhere else as my family and friends seem just as scared as me and I find myself reassuring them...!!

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22 Replies

  • welcome to our club all of which have diffreing symptoms. Some it comes and goes paroxsymal and others persistent. Look on AF site for guidance and ask all the questions you like on here. We are a helpful supportive lot in the main.

  • Great luck you found this website for ideas and support. Welcome!

  • Welcome to the mad world of AF. We all know how you feel right now and yes it is scary but be assured AF won't kill you though it may feel like it sometimes.

    I'm sorry to say that it is most likely the sport you so much want to get back to which has caused your problem. There is much evidence to link endurance athletics with AF in younger people ie those under 60. Fighter pilots also have a greater chance of presenting with the condition most likely due to the work their hearts have to do in fighting g forces.

    Since AF almost always progresses I would urge you to see the right people e.g. an electrophysiologist regarding getting rid of it before it takes over as you really do not want another forty years of drugs which limit you life. AF Association website is a mine of useful fact sheets on all aspects of this mongrel condition and I suggest that you read all you can as this is one condition where we need to become experts in ourselves . Ask any specific question and I am sure we will find an answer for you.


  • Thanks Bob! The cardiologist suggested the sport might have caused it but said that if so they'd expect to see thickening of the heart muscle... Which wasn't present. Is this normal? Thanks for the response - I've felt very alone all week so was very glad to find this forum.

  • Hi JacqRobs,

    I use to be a runner myself (long distance), I was told by my EP that

    endurance training was the cause of my Atrial Flutter. You get plenty of good advice on this forum, so try not to worry.

    Best Wishes


  • Welcome! You have found a great website loads of people with similar experiences.

    you will be reassured and please remember you are far from alone.


  • Hello and welcome to our forum. Diagnosis is a real kick in the teeth but the news about your heart's 'plumbing' is good, so that is something very positive. There are many posters here who are athletic - runners, cyclists, climbers and walkers - some are your age or younger and they look in from time to time, so you are not alone.

    I understand how your family feels - my poor husband wouldn't let me out of his sight for weeks after I was diagnosed. But . . . you are the important one and knowledge is your best defence and as Bob has advised, getting to see the best specialist(s) who can help with treatment and management of the condition.

    If it is of help, I found that acceptance of the fact that I had this blasted thing was the most difficult part and once that was done, I could start to think about how to live with it. One of the biggest enemies we have is anxiety and worry and many people have good advice on the forum about strategies to keep positive.

    You will get to a better place both mentally and physically, even though it doesn't feel like it at the moment. Keep reading and posting - and try to keep the demons where they should be - away!

    Best wishes

  • Thank you x

  • Thank you - and yes, my husband has done much the same this week. He was so scared while we were in hospital last weekend... Especially as neither of us had heard of this before. Thanks for the pep talk - so glad I've found this forum. It means I can be scared 'out loud' which is a big relief!

  • agree with Bob re cause being the marathons- we had a talk from an EP this month and he said marathons are bad news for hearts - you will b able to exercise but not so vigorously

    I know ablation is better than drugs for young people but I would look into whether AF will stop if you stop the marathons and your heart muscle returns to normal before you rush into ablation

    let us know how you get on

  • Hello Jacqrobs, I was diagnosed when I was about 37. I would get AF once or twice a year, and each time I would take 200mg of Flecainide. This went on for about seven years when I started to get more frequent bouts of AF and the Flecainide was less effective. It was then decided I should have an Ablation which I did and worked fine for about ten months when I had another event. I have had a second Ablation in February this year and so far all has been well, although it is still early days.

    You'll be glad you found this site as you'll read posts that you can relate to and hopefully help put your mind at ease.

    I'm not quite a marathon runner but I do swim a lot, which I'm still able to do now easily. I swim about 2500m two to three times a week, and even the odd open water swim, so don't worry about doing a little exercise.

    All the best.

  • Thanks so much for the reply - it all feels a bit bewildering at the moment. But good to know you're still swimming open water. I've missed a Triathlon I was supposed to be doing last weekend because of the latest AF episode and was worried that that would be it for me - and although I've written off the one I was hoping to do in September I'll start planning for next season! Thanks again for the reply - it certainly helps me feel less alone!

  • I also suffer from paroxysmal AF - my first ever attack was at a residential bootcamp and scared the bejesus out of me.

    I was about to mention magnesium but @bigleg beat me to it. I have experienced major success in damping down my AF using magnesium - from 6 visits to A&E per year to only a couple of 10 minute bursts of it in the last 6 months.

    Endurance athletes are prone to magnesium deficiency and magnesium is one of the key nutrients responsible for maintaining regular heart rhythm.

    For me its been almost a miracle and i would strongly recommend you look more closely at supplementation with this mineral.

    And yes feel free to cry and complain and moan and stamp your feet in this forum. We all understand the frustration and seeming unfairness of this disease.

  • Hi JacqRobs,

    I was diagnosed almost 2 years ago when I was 42 - it was the day that I decided to revisit one of my Running School exercises and do a 30 second sprint up a steep gradient on the treadmill, something I'd last done a year previously. I'll never know whether that is what caused the start of my AF (it's in the family anyway, although other family members have had persistent AF) but it's been a learning journey since then.

    You will need to be careful with strenuous exercise until you get used to the effects of AF, the medications and find what works for you. One of the speakers at last years' AF Day actually found that running helped to stop an episode! I'm now building back up - avoiding abs crunches (due to neck pressure), press-ups and dips and any heavy weights where my elbows go above my head. CV is fine, apart from the (very) odd day where I recognise the "not quite right" feeling and go and have a stretch instead. Main thing is to warm up slowly (particularly if you are on beta blockers or similar) and ensure that your muscles are relaxed after exercise. If you have access to a foam roller, I find using it to massage my back and legs really helps to reduce any tension in my chest (!!!) and stretching is a must!!

    AF tends to get worse, but the episode become less frightening as you get used to the condition and the important thing is not to let it define who you are - aim for normal life as much as you can. Hopefully, if meds keep you in sinus (normal) rhythm longer, that should lengthen the time between episodes as well (Google "AF begets AF" for more information on this.)

    Lastly, if you can get to the AF Association Patients' Day in October, it's a really useful source of information. My husband came with me last year and it really helped him to understand more about how he could help me. Like Finvola's experience, he was scared and wouldn't do anything that might mean that he couldn't drive me to hospital if needed, so his life was changed much more than mine! What finally gave him some comfort was ensuring that we always have enough money for a taxi to the hospital (i.e. he could have a glass of wine or beer without worrying, or go out with friends) - we've never had to use it, and a paramedic recently told me we were nuts to do that as it would be a perfectly legitimate reason to call an ambulance. It also helped when I had medication and the duration and symptoms of the episodes became predictable, almost to the minute. The uncertainty at the start was definitely the worst bit for me!

    Hope that helps. If you have any questions that you don't want to post on the forum, you can always drop me a private message (click on my name and you should have the option to send a message).

    Best wishes


  • Thanks, Caroline, that's all very reassuring. Am still a bit shocked by the diagnosis but am getting there I think. Good to know it's not a definite full stop to the sport!

  • Hello, I am 46 and have had AF for a couple of years. I am not an athlete, in fact, don't do as much exercise as I should, but I am slim and eat healthily. Like you I therefore wondered where this came from and what I had done to cause it. The answer is probably nothing and it is just bad genes - that's what my cardiologist said. As everyone else said, it's scary at first, but with the right medication, researching things yourself and asking the right questions of your cardiologist/EP you can feel more in control and get on with your life.

    Take care

  • Thanks Sam. It looks like this might be the case for me, too. It's a strange feeling as 'causes' are ruled out - relief that there's nothing 'else' wrong but then the frustration of unanswered questions! I have so many friends who run longer / harder / faster than me but no-one I know has had this so I do find the 'it's because you run' reason doesn't feel right. But that's maybe because I don't want it to be the reason... Thanks for your reply - hearing everyone else's experiences really does help.

  • I'm 41, and was diagnosed with PAF last November, having had episodes for a year or two before that. I used to run about 3 or 4 times a week, doing about 30 (hilly) miles around Sheffield, and more recently also cycling. My episodes came on exclusively after running, apart from one that came on after a fairly hard cycle sportive: they'd last for a few hours - over a day. I'm now on 2.5mg of Bisoprolol, and I've dropped running completely. I had my most recent attack in February, when I ran a small distance while watching my youngest daughter in a cross country race rather than when exercising: I now avoid running almost completely, not just as exercise. I'm doing a fair amount of cycling instead, however: my surmise is that running was particularly problematic for me because it would lead me to have a high sustained heart rate with high peaks (tending to average in the high 160s, going up to the high 180s very often), whereas my heart rates from cycling are generally much lower, with lower peaks and sustained troughs (tending to average from 115 bpm - low 130s nowadays, and sometimes going up to 170-odd on hard hills - I'm reluctant to go all out for long these days, anyway!) Does your AF come in immediately after running, or is the association less immediate? If straight after, and if you use a heart rate monitor, it would be worth looking to see if there are patterns there. AF is depressingly common among runners in their 30s and 40s - I have friends who are serious runners and who each know of 3 or 4 people who've got it - but it isn't in itself all that dangerous, particularly when it's been diagnosed; and I find that the alarm that the episodes inevitably bring (even though my own symptoms are relatively mild) recedes a fair amount as the episodes recede; although the spectre of progression sadly does loom.

  • Thanks for this, all these replies are very helpful! Mine had never come on during running, even during long runs/marathons etc, until a few weeks ago when I was feeling just 'not very well' and jogged up a hill on a short slow run. I had to stop and rest at the top and had a 5-10 minute 'palpitation'. I just thought I must have a cold or something as palpitations had been common but usually 'randomly' rather than when running. I was diagnosed last weekend, however, after a 400m hurdles race (I wasn't even going that fast!!). But my heart rate must have been pretty high and it triggered AF which didn't stop for 27 hours (until treatment with beta blockers). I've trained with a heart rate monitor for just under a year and my 'long run' heart rate had been around 150, but on shorter runs it would regularly get into the high 170s which, with hindsight, was probably a bit high. It sounds as though I've got off lightly so far. And I needed to work on my cycling anyway...! Thanks again for you response - it helps so much to hear other people's experiences, good and bad!

  • Hi I started with paf at 37 mine started after I had pneumonia, but looking back I think I had a couple of episodes in my early 30s.

    I have had to give up caffeine and alcohol as they are triggers for me also running and I can't have soya sauce. I think mine happens when I am dehydrated. I used to always get paf In a morning if I had a Chinese night before and if I had alcohol I used to wake up in the night in af with my pulse going up to 180.

    I used to be so scared to go anywhere on my own without my husband and also because I have two children.i have learnt to live with it now after 5 years. I am now 42.

    I know my triggers and avoid them I have given up caffeine and alcohol and really miss it , some days are definitely easier than others.

    I would love a glass of wine and find it hard not been able to have one especially at the weekend but it's not worth risking it and ending up in a+e Resus and been admitted. I never knew anyone who had it at my age till I joined this forum it's so nice to know other people are out there with same condition and are supportive.

  • Hi Jacqrobs. I am 37 (Today!!!) and was diagnosed 2 years ago with AF and other atrial arrythmias though i had had short episodes of palps for years!. I understand how you feel. Once the shock of this diagnosis has subsided you will master what it means to have AF. I was never as fit as you but i did love the gym and running short distances. I still ran until recently and i have arrythmias daily and did when i ran. My EP treats 2 olympic athletes who are in permanent AF. Life goes on and life is still wonderful. My EP( ie. An electrophysiologist...a doc who specialises in heart electrics) describes to me that paroxysmal arrythmias (episodes which recur) are "little tortures and torments" but it is about accepting the episodes, knowing they will not kill you and waiting for them to pass and still live a full and normal life. There are many treatments available which may well work a treat for you and I sincerely hope they do:)) this forum has been a great source of support for me and i am sure you will find the same...welcome to your wee AF family:)) there is always someone with words of comfort which i love about this forum. Take care and keep us posted . x

  • Thank you! And happy birthday :-)

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