Much is spoken of AF triggers and some people believe in them, others don't. All my recent AF episodes (last couple years) have been after alcohol, cold sugary drink late at night, or a particularly spicy Indian meal. From what I've read, the vagus nerve is the culprit. However, if I go from a warm house into a cold garden and exert myself, I get that 'feeling' that tells me to be on the lookout for an episode. It doesn't happen because I employ deep slow breathing that sends it away. Does anybody else get affected by temperature changes like this and is the vagus nerve the cause again?

17 Replies

  • @Alan_G

    My heart went into afib once just after I played a hard game of squash, but I do not think that was the only reason, because it was very very hot that day.

    I cannot say it had anything to do with the vagus nerve because the exercise and dehydration could also have been the culprit.

    After my ablation my heart went into afib (3 times) for the following reasons:

    1 Squash/heat/dehydration? - I really do not know

    2 Caffeine energy drink

    3 Alcohol/exercise/dehydration - I think it was an combination of all 3.

    I am very interested with the vagus nerve "thing" because I "feel" my heart when my stomach is full or bloated and then it feels like my heart just wants to go out of rhythm, does this have anything to do with the vagus nerve? I think so.

    I wrote this about vagal maneuvers - the last one has got to do with temperature issues.

    Coughing is included as one of the vagal maneuvers :

    So it can actually slow down your heart rate.

    The others are:

    1. Gagging

    2. Holding your breath and bearing down

    3. Immersing your face in ice-cold water.

    Sorry for the LONG post.

  • "...I "feel" my heart..."

    That is a better description. My pulse stays the same and does not quicken, yet I am suddenly very aware of my heart. As others have said, concentratng on my breathing sorts it out.

  • It's not a question of believing in them or not believing in them. It is a reality that some things trigger AF episodes for some people but not others. Also for those in persistent AF some things can exacerbate the AF (ie make it worse / more active).

  • You took the words right out of my mouth :-)

  • Well some of us are still up over this side of the pond!!!

  • Slow, deep breathing improves Vagal tone and is known to help. Agree with PeterWh - it's not a matter of belief - just that we are all different and this is a mongrel condition so for some rest helps where's for others exercise can stop an episode. You cannot generalise.

    Look back over the past 2-3 weeks and you will see threads posting links to videos which you will find very informative. Not all doctors recognise the importance of vagus nerve and its' connections between digestive tract and the heart but if you do a bit of googling you will find a lot of info.

    Search Vagal/Vagus on HU and you will find loads of threads talking about the subject.

  • Do you know if there are any dangers in performing vasovagal maneuvers, ie. Blowing air into your thumb? I've tried this before and it's kind of worked but not lasted terribly long and the change in hr felt very abrupt.

  • Not something I know much about. My experience has been whatever one tries, it may work temporarily but nothing seems to work for very long. The slow breathing has had more success than anything I have read or heard about or experienced but you need to do it for 5 mins minimum. And you need to practice daily, whether or not you have AF at the time. And it is often only a temporary fix as AF tends to be progressive for a lot of people but breathing, relaxation techniques, healthy diet and daily exercise definately can improve matters, sometimes drastically.

    Also there is a big connection between Sleep Apnea and AF so if you are known to be a snorer - ask GP for a referral to sleep clinic. SA is treated none invasively and can have a massive impact of QOL and AF.

  • An ambulance man got me to do the deep breath in and slowly blow out (sounds the same as the thumb thing) when I was in AF ~150 bpm. I was already very light headed but doing that made me more so, so I stopped it. However, 5 minutes later I was back in nsr so it perhaps it helped. I don't think it can do any harm.

    I found something on the vagus nerve when I was researching it once, which connected it with the common 'hearing' your heart beat in your ear which many of us have.


  • I can feel overwhelmed by a cold environment sometimes and know just what you mean by feeling as though something's about to happen regarding heart beat. If I'm not already nice and warm I never venture into freezer areas in supermarkets now as I can get extra cold quickly. Definitely a new thing since my AF.

    Funny that there's mention of breathing techniques too because without realising anyone else does this I've developed one of my own. When I feel the start of an ectopic, If I catch it right, I take a sharp breath in at the same time and it carries it away instead of it becoming 2 or 3 extra beats.


  • G'day Alan,

    There is some interesting Vagal (Vagus) Nerve resource material posted in video format on YouTube. Like any of these things it should only be used as a learning resource but the concept that the vagal nerve is also known as the 'Wanderer' influencing and affecting many organs is worthy of some note.


  • Really interesting to read about the breathing techniques and my experience would back those comments up. I also echo the cold weather comment. In my case, there has once or twice been a tendency to almost asthma like symptoms, where my breath catches on a wheeze and then I'll have palpitations, if not an AF episode. These tend to be the short-lived ones that sort themselves out though, not the longer ones. Breathing and AF though are definitely connected in my book.

  • I couldn't agree more about the breathing exercises. I make a point of doing then at least a couple of times a day even if there are no signs of AF. It makes it so much easier to effortlessly slip into them when you are concerned there may be an AF episode round the corner.

  • As I have posted here previously I started in AF after a heart valve replacement but when back in NSR after cardioversion stimulation of my vagus nerve during a colonoscopy put me back in it and the next time after a DRE on my prostate.

  • When I had SVTs, stepping out into cold temps (winter) or taking a cold shower, was a suggestion for stopping the SVT. It didn't work for me, though.

  • Alan_G and fallingtopieces

    Thanx for that confirmation of "feeling" your heart and "hearing" your heart, because I always felt so stupid when tried to I explained this to my Dr, although my heart was still in NSR.

    Very insightful comments on the vagus nerve,

    Interesting article here:

  • Never found any common trigger for my AF episodes - that's not to say people don't have them. My initial episodes were always early morning but then started to occur at any time of the day and for no apparent reason. I simply concluded that I have dodgy electrics and is one of the reasons I went down the ablation route.

    Having said that I still try to avoid alcohol, caffeine etc and not to overeat as I do believe that the vagal nerve is an important factor and could still apply.

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