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July 2022

Control Your Risk for Atrial Fibrillation

While you can manage certain risk factors for the condition, there are some you can’t control. Factors such as your family history, age, race, and sex all play a role.

Older person doing a plank

Know your risk

A recent study emphasizes that age significantly increases risk for atrial fibrillation. Researchers found that those between ages 40 and 49 had a less than 1% risk of developing atrial fibrillation, but that number steadily rose. By ages 70 and older, the level of risk had increased to 18%.

What’s more, research shows that certain risk factors are associated with a greater chance of developing atrial fibrillation among men when compared with women. For example, having a higher body mass index has a greater impact on atrial fibrillation risk among men.

Take action

Unfortunately, you can’t control your sex or your age. But everyone can take charge of their atrial fibrillation risk by maintaining these healthy habits:

  • Eat a diet full of different whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight.

  • Try to work in 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Break down the 150 minutes into as many smaller sessions as needed.

  • Don’t smoke.

  • Keep your blood pressure under control.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

  • Take any medicines as prescribed.

  • See your healthcare provider regularly.

  • Monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

  • Keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range. Although research is mixed on whether high cholesterol contributes significantly to atrial fibrillation, it can increase your risk for heart disease.

In addition, get medical help right away if you notice any of these atrial fibrillation symptoms:

  • Dizziness

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Fluttering or pounding in the chest

If you think you are having a heart attack or stroke, don’t wait for your healthcare provider. Call 911 immediately.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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