Strange pre-AF Feeling: I'm not sure anyone... - AF Association

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Strange pre-AF Feeling


I'm not sure anyone will be able to answer this, but it's been bugging me for a while so I'll ask. I've not had an AF episode since April but if I do something that I associate with one of my known triggers such as eat a big meal late at night I get that 'funny' feeling in my chest/stomach that I associate with impending AF. When I get the feeling I automatically do deep breathing. My question is: what is going on, because my pulse remains steady (slow) and regular. Going by my pulse alone, there is nothing wrong so what is this impending feeling all about? I thought you were either in NSR or AF? I appear to remain in NSR but the feeling, often a bit like a lump in my upper chest tells me to be prepared. Anybody else experienced this?

I'm wondering if it's to do with the vagus nerve. I've actually experienced the same feeling going from a warm house out into the cold, or even missing a step unexpectedly.

26 Replies

Yes always used to get it, I described it as an adrenaline rush, even though I wasn't stressed or concerned about anything,

The Vagal nerve runs very close to the heart and through the stomach so eating, especially larger meals, often triggers AF - you will find a lot of threads talking about Vagal AF and yes deep breathing is often very helpful.

The Vagal nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system - google and learn more about it so you will understand. This is also why anxiety plays such a huge part in AF - anxiety like symptoms are a manifestation of Vagal AF.

CDreamer in reply to CDreamer

PS - I also had autonomic dysfunction with my AF - symptoms such as poor body temperature control, low or variable BP, excessive or no sweating, hot flushes etc etc.

Alan_G in reply to CDreamer

The feeling I get does not feel like an adrenaline rush, but I have experienced that in the past. Are these feelings being caused by the Vagal Nerve, which can then POSSIBLY trigger AF. As I said, my pulse remains normal providing I keep calm, etc.

CDreamer in reply to Alan_G

I think the feeling is different for everyone - I have read it described as fluttering, lump in throat, tight feeling, as if going to have panic attack etc etc.

Yes, feelings which can possibly, but not always, trigger AF. The calmer you remain, the less likely it will result in AF - hence the deep breathing. Important the out breath is longer than the in breath.

CDreamer in reply to Alan_G

Autonomic nervous system ANS is also the system activated in Freeze, Fight or Flight mechanism. It controls every non cognitive muscle activity in the body eg, digestive system, heart beat, breathing etc etc which is why you can 'override' the 'auto' setting when you consciously focus on your breathing.


Yes, same here re the meals, think it's common/normal. Vagal nerve as I understand it as CD just explained.

I can't eat full-sized meals, so I eat small meals and graze instead. I NEVER fill myself up is the key thing, it's that full feeling (or anywhere near it) that starts it off. I've also lost a bit of weight by never filling myself up 😀.

I don't get the warm/cold thing though. Although I'll find out for definite when we go to northern Finland this coming February!!!!


CDreamer in reply to Hidden

The warm/cold thing is more autonomic dysfunction I think, which is different and apart from AF but also part of sympathetic nervous system so connected.

Get something similar, deep breathing seems to help . I have a very low resting HR and put the feeling down to that and a touch of the ectopics.

But cant help wondering the fluttery feeling is going to go up a notch or two and things are going to get really wobbly. Luckily they dont seem to.

Always at the back of your mind though isnt it?

Alan_G in reply to constabule

Yes, my resting HR is low to, due to bisoprolol, no doubt. Usually in the 50s but has gone into upper 40s. Doesn't concern me because my blood flow seems fine. Like you, I 'worry' it may turn into an AF episode but I've found, so far, that can be avoided if I manage it properly. My original reason for asking the question was I hoped someone might know or have read what is going on physiologically for you to get these feelings but still maintain a steady, regular pulse.

Hi, I know the feeling. Don't underestimate the power of the mind also. If you are in a situation where you are experiencing a trigger and are aware of it, e.g. A heavy meal, your mind can make you feel the symptoms. Someone explained it to me like someone who passes out with injections. There is no medical reason why they should pass out however, if they think they will they often can do.

CDreamer in reply to Richard75

But there is physiological reason.

I used to get warnings of af just before it hit, still get those sensations but post ablation the actual AF never arrives

I also get a trigger if I get hot. Always sleep with the window open,even if it's minus degrees outside. No holidays in hot climates or hot baths

I sometimes can tell when an AF episode is about to happen! Yes, I have that funny feeling in my chest (not stomach) and I had to leave my work in a charity shop the other day, as I felt it coming on, and then had a full on AF episode at home. Also, quite often, the night before (and I do suffer from insomnia, not a help to AF) I am particularly restless and toss and turn and am awake all night and my whole body feels as though it is experiencing 'restless legs syndrome'! Then - quite often I will get AF in the early hours or sometimes during that next day. WHAT is going on????

OK. I am told that if you eat a large meal, it causes a sudden drop in blood pressure until you have digested it. Not sure on the science and I am sure somebody will be able to explain. Any swing in blood pressure will trigger AF in those of us prone. Good example is standing up from a lying position, you get a sudden drop in BP and then a sudden increase as the heart kicks in to rectify it, the result can be an AF trigger.

Alan_G in reply to RichMert

When I get out of bed to go to the toilet or for any other reason in the middle of the night, I inhale deeply as I stand up. I find that works a treat because in the past I have gone into AFIB when I've stood up in the middle of the night.

I get that feeling also and mine is always after I eat more than I should. Maybe the stomach being full presses on something, not sure. I feel it more in my throat or esophagus area. Since ablation though I know longer go in to anything more than a few flip flops. I went gluten free in April and that helped significantly. I have been tested twice for Celiac and don't have it but I definitely can't eat it. I tried a little recently to see what would happen and I had horrible ectopics for 5 days following.


Yes I get that "I dont feel right" feeling. Ive only had 3 episodes since diagnosis 11 mo ago so cannot pinpoint any triggers. Ive had that feeling and deep breathing for several minutes makes it go away. At first I thought it was anxiety but it has occurred when Ive been totally relaxed.

Alan_G in reply to Hidden

That's what I find so annoying. If I was stressed and got the feeling, I'd know what brought it on, but it can hit you when you least expect it when totally relaxed. As others have implied, could be related to BP.

You lot so cheer me up - thought I was the only one feeling odd at unexplained times! the deep breathing in and longer out helps me no end especially if I am worried about some event that is going to happen the next day for example, when the anxiety tries to kick in! Some very helpful general comments on this matter. thank you all once again.

Since the medical community does not know the cause of AF, surmising what causes it is a bit of a guess. If you have read any of my previous posts, you may know I have been exploring the vagus nerve and how it is impacted by the spinal column. Some chiropractors think spinal adjustment will fix it and they have had success doing this and thus eliminating AF. Eating big meals, standing, etc all impact the spine. I can very often stop the initiation of AF by changing my spinal position. I have recently learned that the para-sympathetic nerve impacts the bladder, stomach and heart among other things. It slows the heart. I find slowing the heart will more times than not start AF. At the same time, my stomach feels different and I urinate a lot. This part of the vagus nerve can be impacted by the cervical spine - the neck. The sympathetic vagus nerve speeds up the heart and can be impacted by the thoracic spine - the middle of the back. (Which I just recently learned.) You may find if you move these parts of the back that you can influence your AF. Moving the neck and back seems to stop AF when it starts and not after it gets rolling, for me at least. You may also want to visit a chiropractor to see if your spine is ok. Apparently, because we sit a lot and are on devices from computers to phones, this may be why the vagus nerve is acting up and more people have AF. On YouTube are some good exercises for the neck and back. Also I think the Scenar device I have and my chiropractor has may help.

Alan_G in reply to EngMac

All interesting stuff. I actually go to bed in a sitting position because I found lying down on my side often brought on these feelings of impending AF. It took a bit of getting used to but now I have no problem trying to go to sleep like this. I do occasionally wake up with a stiff neck though and have to move my head around a bit to relax and clear it. Daft though it sounds, I still find the best way of alleviating these 'feelings' when I do still get them in bed is to go and sit on the toilet for a while and do deep breathing. Then back to bed and everything seems okay again.

Alan_G in reply to EngMac

And come to think of it, getting the AF 'feeling' when I've unexpectedly missed a step and 'jarred' by body, and also bending down to pick something up, which has happened at least once, also seems to lend credence to your theories.

Hi Alan, I have been getting the same, my last episode in September but since taking a small dose of flecainide I keep thinking it's starting but my pulse remains about 44, my triggers are food, really strange feeling but my gp not concerned

You may wish to have a chiropractor take a look at you. May be this could help.

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