Common causes for AF include: aging, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, mitral valve disease, congenital heart disease, lung diseases, excessive alcohol consumption and hyperthyroidism. The last two causes are reversible.
AF increases the risk of stroke up to 5 times that of the general population and these strokes are often devastating. AF can cause a stroke because the upper chambers of the heart (atria) are fibrillating, or quivering which causes sluggish blood flow. This sluggish blood flow through the heart chambers can form a blood clot in the left atrium. Small bits of this blood clot may break off, travel to the brain, and cause a stroke. Stroke in AF is 50% fatal in the first year. People with AF have nearly twice the risk of death for people in their age group.
The risk of developing AF increases with age and is often associated with heart failure. Heart failure is also a disease of the aging population and up to 50% of all people with heart failure have AF. When AF and heart failure are found in association with one another, there is a rise in the level of illness and death. With people living longer many believe that AF, as well as heart failure, are new ‘epidemics’. It is projected by the year 2050 that as many as 5.5 million Americans will have AF, and is the reason The Zoe Foundation is so committed to finding a cure for AF.