Non-Drinker had an episode of atrial fibril... - AF Association

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Non-Drinker had an episode of atrial fibrillation and ended up needing a Cardioversion


Hi I have some questions.  I am a non-drinker, only once in a blue moon will have a glass of champagne.  However a couple weeks back I  went to a party and decided to drink that evening.  I had 3 mai tai's  and ended up in the ER the next morning. My blood pressure was 70/47 and my heart rate got up to 180.  I was in Afib and not responding to the IV's so they did a Cardioversion.  Since this episode I have to take Eliquis and Digoxen for at least 30 days.  Ever since, I have been feeling terrible.  Extreme fatigue and feeling of heaviness in my thighs when I walk.  I am wondering if the Digoxen could be making me feel this way?    Also, I plan on NEVER drinking ANY alcohol again.  What are my chances of going into Afib again and could I have a problem with my heart or is this simply a one time episode of Holiday Heart for a person with a healthy heart?  

FYI, I am a 61 year old female, 5'5", 124 pounds. Also a non-smoker.  My mother & father both had congestive heart failure.  My Echocardiogram  and bloodwork came back normal. Also, since the Cardioversion my blood pressure/heart rate & EKG has been normal.  Yet I feel lousy.

11 Replies

Hi Patricia

Well none of us are medically trained, and it does sound like you might be lucky and just get the one episode of AF, but I have to say that in my view you are now showing a propensity to AF, and the news your mother and father both had heart failure is not brilliant.

But I suspect the answer is no-one really knows if it will re-occur.

The feeling lousy now tired etc could be a reaction to the Digoxin, usually more common with beta blockers than rhythm control drugs.

Good luck and be well


Hi I don't touch alcohol n smoke n thought I was fairly fit but I ended up with af n heart failure had a cardioversion n went back into nsr   

I am also none of the risk factors and I absolutely do not dare risk even a glass of wine with a meal. Afib I have found out is usually not a one time event. After almost 2 years of not knowing the WHY me, i recently found out I have sleep apnea, which is a MAJOR contributing factor for afib. It is not stressed how important it is for you to be aware of this. I had no idea I had the problem! I stop breathing 30 times an hour during REM sleep. Ask your Dr for a sleep study, it is a very underdiagnosed serious problem with numerous serious health related issues.... Now I look back and see I actually had some symptoms but thgt I was just getting older, I am 60. Prevention for further health being damaging is the key! CHF is caused my many other factors but afib is one that also can cause it as well. 

Kazoo in reply to Spoiler

I am so interested to read your post regarding the sleep apnea. I was diagnosed with Afib in September 2015 and have since been on various drugs, some of which I reacted badly to, particularly Bisoprolol which noticeably affected my breathing amongst other side affects. My doctor realised that I should not be on this as I had asthma as a child. However, the scariest symptoms I have been suffering since this has been the difficulty breathing, particularly when walking and when trying to sleep. I have expressed this very clearly to my doctor on a number of occasions, but all that is suggested is sleeping upright! Has anyone tried and succeeded with this? It is very difficult to sleep upright for any length of time. Exhausted after 2 weeks of very very little sleep, I searched online and, low and behold, up came sleep apnea. And just as spoiler says, it is a very under diagnosed serious problem. I asked my doctor if I could possibly have this - he just smiled. I have just had another five days of very little sleep, constant waking in a panic. Trying to catch up some sleep during the day had the same results. I WILL ask my doctor for a sleep study to answer this. Apparently, they don't like to because it costs...! More than any other symptom or side affect, the difficulty breathing is the most scariest.

Spoiler in reply to Kazoo

If you think about the logic of what actually transpires because of sleep apnea, it does make sense. You are panicing and working in your sleep. My EP told me , it is like being choked 30 times an hour! I just thought I slept really hard and very sound. The science of your bodys reaction explains all the health related issues that progress without treatment. It is all a puzzle and yes, age is a factor. But, hello I am not 80 and have NEVER done the common health risks..... Not happy that I spent almost 2 years and several cardioversions before it was noted the 1st time at a specialised HEART hospital. They zoomed in on it immediately after a cardioversion! People, I have a 9 year cardiac nurse for a daughter/she did NOT know. The field is a more recent/past 10 year of all the health issues that it affects. Knowledge is power! Ear, nose and throat is next-i have chronic sinus, hack cough daily for several years. The throat could cause the apnea. We are tracking the actual possible source....

I think I read somewhere that it is thought that 50% of people have or will have AF at some point.  Although lifestyle can be an important factor, perfectly healthy, very fit and young people also get AF - endurance athletes are especially prone as are jet fighter pilots.  Alcohol may be one of your triggers, certainly was for me as even a sniff of alcohol would bring on an episode, but they are only triggers, if you have a propensity toward AF then the chances are it will not be a stand alone episode - but the good news is that there are some excellent treatments and although it is a shock on first diagnosis, you do get acclimatized, although I get that you feel pretty rotten right now.  

My father had AF and so did I  and I note from posts on this site that it seems to run in families but remember that it is only in the last 10-15 years that there have been good treatment options, my father just accepted he had palpitations, as did many other thousands of people but still lived an active life until his mid 80's and died of renal failure.  Lone AF is not life threatening, but it can be life changing.

Sleep apnea is a definite trigger, I was referred for a sleep study by my EP and found to have mild sleep apnea which is treated with CPAP machine which has eliminated the SA and according to my EP reduced my risk of AF returning hugely (forget the stats but SA is the biggest factor for AF returning after successful treatment).  

Many people on this site are fans of using Magnesium supplements so may be useful to research that aspect, not for me as I have another condition for which Magnesium is contra-indicated.  Some people find eliminating their triggers helps, every time I thought I had it cracked AF would just reappear out of nowhere so don't rely upon eliminating alcohol as a solution!

Learn as much as you can about AF - read all the literature on the AFA web-site (my guess is you are in the US - there is a different site for US but there is a link somewhere On HU and some of the information varies regarding treatment - useful to know about all the options but sometimes the advice UK v US varies).

Read back through various posts for info and post questions or just have a moan or vent, this is a very helpful and supportive forum.

Oh and welcome to our mad, mad world, sorry you had to join.

Hubby is in middle of an episode right this moment, HR 140 and feeling fatigued, grumpy and generally not well - all symptoms of AF as well as side effects of some of the drugs.

I had AF for some 8-9 or so years but after 2 RF ablations am now AF free, thankfully so it may not be a life long condition.  Make sure you see a good EP (Electrophysiologist) for treatment options - not all cardiologists are arrythmia specialists.

Hi. I had severe reaction to digoxin some years ago, some symptoms seem to mirror your problem with fatigue etc.. I felt dreadful.  Best to see a doctor preferably at the hospital. GPs don't like tampering with hospital meds.

Be well


Some people do not tolerate Eliquis well.  My husband developed fatigue and body aches after a couple of weeks on it being treated for blood clots.  

One of the causes for AF (in addition to alcohol sensitivity) is a slow natural pulse (sinus rhythm) and digoxin can make this much worse. It would be good to check your pulse now and if it is less than 60 beats per minute, ask your doc about stopping the digoxin.  If the pulse remains slow (it takes several days to wear off) the main problem could be sinus node disease which can cause long pauses between beats at night and trigger AF attacks. A cardiac pacemaker would fix this problem and in this situation may be very successful in preventing further AF. A 24 hour heart recorder would be best to assess this.

Hi..... it may take a couple of weeks until you feel better. A really bad af episode like yours will have exhausted your body and you need time to recover. My early major af episodes, misdiagnosed as stress induced asthma,  used to leave me quite out of sorts for about two to three weeks.

I hardly drink much alcohol but find I can manage one reasonably sized glass of wine socially without any problems....

Note - I am slim, active and have no other heart or medical problems......but currently awaiting an ablation....

Thank you ALL for your comments.  I really appreciate them.  

It has been 3 weeks since my "Holiday Heart" episode & cardioversion and yet I have simply not been myself. This NON-Drinker will NEVER drink again because 3  mai tai's put me in the hospital. I sleep through the night and my dog gets me up at 6 am. I can function fine until 1 pm and then I am wiped out and go to bed for 3-4 hours everyday. I also noticed that when I take a deep breath that it is uncomfortable and hurts in my back. FYI, chest x-ray is normal and my blood pressure and heart rate are within normal range.   No puffiness in ankles either.   Sometimes when lying down I feel as though I am underwater (sort of a smothering feeling) and there is occasional heaviness in my legs (upper thighs) when I walk.  I stopped taking Digoxin thinking that was it but now I am wondering if it is the Eliquis causing these symptoms. The hospital said that I need to be on Eliquis for one month because of the cardioversion.  All appears to be normal and yet I feel as though something is terribly wrong.

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