Atrial fibrillation (AF) death rates have been increasing every year for more than two decades, with 2.5 percent of the UK population suffering from the disease. It is the most common heart rhythm disorder. Patients with AF told researchers which behaviors were most likely to trigger an episode. They were then fitted with heart monitors and exposed to different triggers in a controlled environment.
Commonly reported triggers for AF included caffeine, sleep on the left side, heavy meals, and cold drinks.
While caffeine was the most commonly reported trigger, researchers could not find any correlation between caffeine consumption and heart rate.
Lead author Gregory Marcus said, “Although caffeine was the most frequently selected trigger for testing, we found no evidence of a short-term relationship between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation.
“In contrast, alcohol consumption was the most consistently associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation.”
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Alcohol was the only trigger the study found that consistently triggered cardiac arrhythmias.
Caffeine, on the other hand, has been found to have a protective effect.
Caffeine affects the cardiovascular system by stimulating the production of adrenaline and by stimulating the contraction of the heart muscles.
Alcohol also causes a temporary increase in heart rate, as well as an increase in blood pressure.
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The information was collected remotely by scientists, with patients wearing portable echocardiograms (heart monitors) and reporting on an app when they were consuming caffeine or alcohol.
Scientists note that the results should not be extrapolated too far due to the limitations of the study.
446 participants were followed for ten weeks, of which only 53 cited caffeine as a trigger and 43 who cited alcohol.
The group was also largely made up of middle-aged white males, which means more research may be needed before applying the findings to other groups.
The conditions under which a person’s atrial fibrillation can occur vary from person to person.
While alcohol caused the most episodes in the study and caffeine was the most common concern among participants, other triggers may include smoking, overeating, and stimulant drugs such as amphetamines.
If lifestyle changes do not prevent atrial fibrillation, your cardiologist may install a pacemaker.
Other common treatments include a class of drugs called antiarrhythmics, which force the heart to maintain a proper rhythm.