Permanent AF impact on Life Expectancy?

I'll be 69 this year and my AF was spotted during the course of a medical 10 years ago. Initially it was intermittent but about 7 years ago it became permanent and shock therapy failed to reverse it. Because I don't even realise I have AF my cardiologist felt it best to just medicate and I'm on a daily Xeralto tablet. Overall I enjoy very good health and if it wasn't for my annual ECG I wouldn't even know I had AF.

So now to my question! Bearing in mind that my heart is in permanent AF it surely has an impact on the condition of my heart relative to a non AF 69 year old. Is this the case and if so, to what degree is my life expectancy likely to be affected?

26 Replies

  • People with AF often make life style choices which can have a positive impact on life expectancy (diet, exercise, etc).

  • Lifestyle is, in my view, good for my age. Am a bit overweight but static for 10 years plus. I walk 5 miles in around 80 minutes about 4 or 5 times a week. Play golf etc. etc. So externally I reckon people would see me as healthy.

    However, what I'm trying to establish is whether my life expectancy is greatly affected by tyhe extra wear on heart due to AF rather than how best to live with AF

  • Suppose if AF reasonably controlled shouldn't be too different from someone without. Just guessing maybe google it and believe the negatives not positives ha ha. Seriously we all gonna die if something we've got it so let's live life to best we can eh ?

  • PS My resting heart rate tends to be in the 57 - 65 range

  • This study using the Framingham data does show a significant excess mortality with af, but the paper was in 1998 before such widespread use of anticoagulants and ablations, so its current relevance is debatable.

    Some will have af secondary to other cardiac problems such as ischaemic heart disease and although this study aims to try and avoid that, I can't see that it could be certain

    Live your life to the full and work on keeping your heart healthy!

  • A personal opinion of mine is there may be a difference being in controlled afib and flutter and in uncontrolled afib and flutter. Plus how bad is it.

  • Hi Blunkly,

    What a great question. I am not a medic, however you have a very good resting pulse, you walk a lot, everything positive in my eyes for a long life.



  • How. do they know that it is permanent ....your resting heart rate is quite low...r u on medication?

  • That's what I was thinking, how do you know you're permanent? Have you been tried on anti-arrhthymic drugs or had any ablations?

  • Hi Blunkly,

    My grandfather had permanent AF, liked his cigarettes and whisky (all his life!) and lived into his 90s.

    (Oh, and he didn't take any medication for it, either - not to be recommended though.)

    Hope that reassures!


  • I find it unbelievable that there is so little information on the progression of AF in general.The Framingham study is nearly twenty years old. I Know from my own experience and the experience of others who use this site how unpredictable AF can be. But there are so many other complex diseases and conditions out there where it seems the progression and prognosis can be figured out to some extent why not AF. My mum had AF and heart failure over eighteen years ago and the medication that is being used today to treat it is virtually the same as it was then I find it hard to believe that a heart can be transplanted but heart failure and things like AF cant be cured.

  • Uncontrolled AF can cause enlarged atrium perhaps leading to heart failure. That would apply to somebody with an excessive heart rate which you do not have. The highest risk with AF is stroke but since you are anti-coagulated this is greatly reduced. ANY treatment for AF is merely about improving quality of life and since yours sounds pretty good I would stop worrying and get on with it if I were in your (golf) shoes. Live every day as if it were your last because one day you will be right.

  • Koll and rothwell: On every occasion I was checked over the past few years my AF was described as permanent. My cardio said that he didn't favour ablation where an affected patient was able to carry on a normal life. In my case it doesn't manifest itself and only for the ECG's I wouldn't even be aware of my condition. Cardio's opinion was that he didn't like to do any invasive heart procedure unless it was going to make a difference to a person's lifestyle. As for medication I'm on Xeralto

    Barry 24: Thanks for your comment & good wishes. Must say I don't let condition affect my approach to life and with, or without, AF I would probably be trying to have a reasonably healthy lifestyle. Honestly don't see much point in living one's life around a condition where it isn't really impacting on my ability to do things. In actual fact I consider myself very fortunate as I see so many of my age group with various other conditions etc.

    Goldfish: Thank you for the link. Looks very interesting relative to my original question

    CTG99: Great that your grandfather lived so long but at this stage I doubt if I will take to the smoking and whiskey!!!

  • Thanks BobD: You can rest assured that I do have an extremely positive outlook on life and my question was really born more out of curiosity rather than worry. My logic tells me that a misfiring engine, even if maintained, won't last as long as a perfect model and so I presume the same applies to the body be it heart or any other organ.

  • My doctor told me he recommended an ablation procedure because the heart changes as you get older, and thus it is more difficult to get a successful ablation result later. (because of the reasons described by Bob). I asked him directly whether he recommend me having op, and he said yes. I am very cautious about surgical interventions, but went ahead, and so far so good after 9 months. I'm 50, have had bouts of AF since my 20s, increasing in length during my 40s, and lasting several days laterly. Glad I had the op

  • Hi there Blunkly from another permie who is virtually asymptomatic. As I said to a nurse recently, I regard myself as really fortunate in life.

    I once found a list of diseases on a life insurance website that had the effect of various risk factors (it wasn't in an obvious place) - I seem to remember they rated diagnosed AF as a two year reduction in lifespan, but I can't find it again to check.

  • Blunkly,

    the relation between the needs of your body regarding blood circulation and the capabilities of your heart regarding pumping the blood is mirrored in the way you feel. If you feel well, it means that your heart is still able to supply your body with high enough blood stream. Your low resting HR shows that your heart is in overall good condition (suppose that you once were a sportsman or similar), so it may be that your AF will not affect your life span at all. Wish you to be so… Reducing your weight would be beneficial for sure!


  • Thanks elmbury. Being totally asymptomatic I consider myself very fortunate. Doubt if I'd have even been detected if I wasn't undergoing a full medical 10 years ago and if that had been the case possibly would not now even be on medication so my risk factor would be much greater than it currently is. I often wonder many stroke victims had previously been AF asymptomatic and simply never spotted or treated. In any event as I get ever closer to the 70 mark to have no mobility issues or other lifestyle affecting issues has to be seen as a big bonus. My parents died age 49 and 59 (cancer & coronary) and 3 of their 4 children are now 70+ and I hope to join them next year. With that background one can't but feel lucky/blessed

    baraba52: Needless to say I'm full of good intentions on 1st of every month to lose a little weight! Whilst I am overweight I definitely don't stand out as being so and though I'd like to shed some pounds the fact that I haven't smoked in nearly 30 years and don't drink alcohol surely entitles me to some vice!

  • There is a very good video by cardiologist Sanjay Gupta about mortality risks of AF. He says the problem is not the AF itself but the company it keeps, ie if you have diabetes, other heart or vascular problems, obesity etc. I would suggest you adjust your diet to reduce inflammation. This means primarily cutting out wheat and gluten, and possibly supplementing with Omega 3. And exercise.

  • I asked my cardiologist if AF had any adverse effects on the heart and he said no.

  • I think he was being nice and reassuring, but not quite truthful

  • Must say my logic tells me that AF has to have some level of impact. One wouldn't expect a well serviced misfiring engine to last as long as a well maintained 'normal' engine. Despite raising the question I don't dwell on my life expectancy. I have an excellent quality of life really so just cross my fingers that it goes on for as long as possible!

  • When I see posts that permentant afib has little impact on lifestyle either I was a wimp or my afib was different. Four ablations may finally feel normal again. I think some have less misfire than others.

  • azriverrat: Reckon your AF was VERY different to mine. I've never experienced flutters or any other manifestation and if I never had an ECG I wouldn't even realise I have the condition. For that reason my cardio didn't see any point in an ablation as doing so wouldn't impact my day to day life. When my cardio asked me if I had any day to day issues I said that I didn't sleep as well as I used to or might get a bit more tired during the day. His response to me was 'Well you were born in 1948'! In other words he saw that simply as normal ageing and not necessarily AF related.

    Hopefully after 4 ablations you will now get back to 'normality'

  • I have had a/f for about12 years and a triple by pass 10 moths ago and am now 82 having a spell of a/f every 4 weeks and taking stacks of pills. When a/f strikes my wife used to ring the medics who very good but I almost always finished up in a cold corridor waiting 2-3 hours to be seen by a doc during this period no one came to see if I was still kicking and the treatment is 2 days in a hospital bed for observation no extra drugs then sent home at a unearthly hour

    What happens now is that my wife tucks me up in bed I try deep relaxation and deep breathing. the attacks last about 10 hours. I feel a bit knackered for a few hours afterwards

    My cardiologist thinks I am doing OK

    But what frightens me most is dementia and Alzheimers it creeps up and is a slow death

    heart attacks are much quicker and there is a chance you get a full recover as I have done after my heart attack and by pass surgery

  • Ted80: Obviously I'm incredibly lucky as in permanent AF but I have zero manifestation of it. Other than medics confirming anytime I have an ECG etc. I wouldn't even be aware of my condition. Looking at experiences of others it looks as if few have had similar experience to mine. So despite having AF 24/7/365 for past 5 or 6 years I have never experienced an 'attack' etc. As for dementia etc. I reckon we all fear these conditions though unfortunately it can be partners etc. that suffer even more than the patient

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