Study: Alcohol the primary atrial fibrillation trigger, but others exist

People who suffer from dangerous abnormal heart rhythms can take matters into their own hands and figure out what is triggering their episodes, researchers report.

Folks with atrial fibrillation were able to reduce their episodes of the irregular heartbeat by 40% by identifying and then avoiding the substances or activities that caused their heart to go herky-jerky, according to findings presented Sunday at the online annual meeting American Heart Association.

Overall, it turned out alcohol was the only trigger that was consistently associated with a-fib, although individual patients might be affected by less common triggers like dehydration or exercise.

Coffee didn’t appear to have any significant relationship with a-fib, said lead researcher Dr. Gregory Marcus, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco’s School of Medicine and associate chief of cardiology for research at UCSF Health.

“Although caffeine was the most common trigger selected for testing, only alcohol consistently demonstrated evidence of a near-term effect on self-reported a-fib episodes,” Marcus said.

For this study, Marcus and his colleagues engaged a-fib patients to help design a clinical trial intended to determine whether people could effectively figure out triggers on their own.

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