Trigger (Not only fools and horses) - AF Association

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Trigger (Not only fools and horses)

Firstbusman profile image

I have been trying for months to establish a trigger that sets off attacks of AF. I’m lucky at present that I’m only on blood pressure and anti coagulative medication as the attacks are short lived and are around every two to three weeks. I realise that they will increase over time which is similar to my brother who has AF more regular.

I’m able to have a pint of cider a couple times a week, I drink decaf tea and coffee but have had normal tea and coffee at times while in restaurants, I exercise as I live by the sea and walk along the beach. Yesterday I really got stressed after being caught up in the traffic owing to the Dartford Bridge being closed. Three hours stuck in traffic but my heart rate stayed in the 70-80 bpm region no problem regular rhythm. Yet I can be sitting down reading and for no reason I have an attack.

There must be cases where AF is just random with no trigger whatsoever. I weigh 17 stone being 6ft 2 tall and yes a bit big round the middle However my brother is 6ft 1in but weighs 12 stone really fit but is further down the AF road than me.

Am I to think what ever I do re healthy living the AF road is mapped out regardless as to what I do

Very best wishes from Littlestone on Sea do here in scorching Kent


18 Replies

At the top of my list for triggers is artificial additives in food and drink. Artificial sweeteners are a sure trigger, as I suspect is Maltodextrin.

Shallow breathing can also be a trigger which causes the heart to protest. People often say I was just sat watching t.v, reading or on the internet and quite relaxed, when wham my heart took off. Well I often catch myself doing very shallow breathing, so try to incorporate a few deeper breaths.

I used to get dreadful attacks of AF and would end up admitted to a hospital ward, now I'm in mild constant AF and can forget about it and lead a normal life. Yes, I can get tired a little quicker than other people at times, but the area where I live is very hilly and I live at the top of one.

How I wish someone had told me this at the start of my AF journey. Would I have listened- probably not!


miknut profile image
miknut in reply to jeanjeannie50

May I ask you one question....? Are you overweight?

jeanjeannie50 profile image
jeanjeannie50 in reply to miknut

No, I'm not overweight.

"Yet I can be sitting down reading and for no reason I have an attack".

We have all been there and said exactly the same thing! In many respects not enough attention is being given to that seemingly innocuous situation. Like yourself I enjoy a drink, however, if you sit down and quaff pint after pint, it is not really going anywhere except building up in your/my stomach, as such your heart has less room to move/pump plus pressure being put on arteries/veins etc. To help to alleviate that I find that standing up (as you would in a bar) does make a noticeable difference in allowing it to drop down as opposed to building up.

Putting the drinking aspect to one side food does exactly the same thing, not only that, if you have tea coffee or water with your meal, it once again sits in your stomach that much heavier and is likely to back up towards the heart region. Anyway I'm going to say it - it is just food for thought 😄.

Bob warned me back in my early days of AF that trying to identify triggers would put me on the fast track madness. After 5 years of trying I discovered he was correct.

It often runs in families, my father had it and my son has mentioned that he had a few palpitations so that would be my guess.

Bennera513 profile image
Bennera513 in reply to CDreamer

Absolutely and Amen! There's wisdom in tracking down the things we can control. And if there is something we can identify and change that brings relief, then why wouldn't we. Past that it is a real searching in the shadows game isn't it? I'm at that point after 6 years of chasing my tail for a reason behind it all. The key now seems to be accepting what is and doing what I can to minimize it's impact.

Having followed this issue and in particular the trigger issues they can be many and at times it can just set off with no triggers. I had a pint of cold water a couple of days ago on a hot day and wham off it went. Personally I’ve had alcohol, stress, cold drinks, caffeine but most often it was nothing tangible.

I asked my consultant and basically he implied it can be anything and everything.

Like others, I did a long search for triggers before concluding there weren't any specific ones. The human brain is set up to identify correlations, e.g. the moving grass could be a waiting lion. AF is an inflammatory condition on the inside of the heart so it is unlikely to be subject to triggers and AF attacks are mainly just random. You must be a slightly younger generation than me, I associate Trigger with Roy Rogers!

For me the one definite trigger is getting drunk ie lots of alcohol. Not every time but a very significant correlation

I can drink a pint or a couple of glasses of wine ok

I am very clear that alcohol affects our hearts. Heart rate increases in everyone being a stimulant.

My father has AF so genetics may b key

Best wishes

I think your ability to identify AF triggers will be dependant on how vagally mediated your AF is (i.e. how sensitive your Vagus Nerve is to experiences) and of course how symptomatic the result is e.g. for some people they can trigger AF and not know it.

So if like me your AF is pretty certainly vagally mediated and you know straight away when it happens you may choose to embark on a long term plan to find your individual triggers. One way of doing this would be to read up here and elsewhere the most common triggers exclude all of those from your life and see whether AF is still triggered, if so look for some more to exclude. If not you may choose to go back to exclusions one at a time and all other things remaining equal you may be able to identify one or more triggers.

As others have said there is no guarantee this will work and could result in frustration. All I can say for certain is, I was given 200mgs Flecainide daily, adopted many lifestyle changes including common triggers and take supplements. Over 7+ years, I have remained almost completely AF free and because I am enjoying the respite and energy, I have not sought to reintroduce any exclusions from my past lifestyle. Good luck.

To my list you can add bending down and crunching the stomach which reinforces the physical pressure on the heart theory too.

I gave up years ago trying to pinpoint my triggers. I never found one.!! I could even get drunk and be fine. I can walk, cycle, swim etc work long shifts and be fine. Then other times out of the blue for no reason, wham…. I can wake up with AF.😡 or get a weeks worth of daily ectopics which drive me crazy.!!!!! It’s a weird thing is this AFIB. In some folk it’s mild and doesn’t really alter much for decades, but in others it can be really troublesome and get more and more in a short time.!!!

In my humble opinion with no scientific facts to back it up, conditions or food I ate seem to present themselves a few hours later with an a-fib episode. That of course includes wine, which I loved but now won't touch, and as far as conditions-wise, brushing my cats and the dander causing a histamine reaction with shallow breathing -- something Jean just mentioned. I think back to what I did a few hours earlier to my attack and usually find the culprit.

tk5518 profile image
tk5518 in reply to Snowgirl65

On the subject of triggers.....I have been able to identify a few triggers for sure ......caffeine and sugar. One reason it may not be easily identifiable is that over time small doses of caffeine like one 12 oz cup of coffee daily doesn't cause a problem for me but now that I've been drinking one cup a day for the last two months (after no caffeine for 6 months).............. if I drink a strawberry milkshake or eat a sugary sweet roll it causes a problem. I thought I could get away with one cup of coffee a day but it doesn't allow room for error if I eat something I shouldn't be eating!

Snowgirl65 profile image
Snowgirl65 in reply to tk5518

I guess the body can only tolerate a certain amount of sugar or caffeine before it lets us know it's not happy! I hope your a-fib stabilizes. Don't we all who have this condition!

I’ve had PAF for eleven years at least, plus 2 ablations. Never found a reliable trigger - and still do all the recommended lifestyle changes. I tend to accept now that I simply have dodgy electrics - just try and do sensible things and not overdo it if possible. Occasionally another health issue comes along and bingo - AF for some reason goes on the back burner until it’s sorted ! Perhaps there is a lesson there somewhere but I have very little idea what starts it or why it can last anything from a few hours to a few days. I’m not convinced that the finest brains know why either. However since I first saw my excellent EP in 2015 I’ve never been discharged, which remains a huge comfort to know he and his team are there in the background.

As my Doctor says...nobody knows my heart like I do and I should listen to it. I usually follow a pattern leading up to an afib attack. Frequent urination, very tired, faintness, I never pass out. Sometimes I'll drink ice water and put a cold towel on my neck and it will pass. You can also try coughing or bearing down like having a bowl movement. So if you know the signs you may be able to prevent some attacks. I've also noticed ,if I over eat, I'm likely to have a few blips.

tk5518 profile image
tk5518 in reply to sweetiepye

Good advice!

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