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Stress and AFib � Can Stress Cause Arrhythmia and Other Heart Issues?

  • 2020-12-29
  • Loreti






Afib, or Atrial Fibrillation, occurs when the top two chambers of your heartbeat erratically and out of rhythm with the lower two chambers. This can happen in short bursts or show up as a chronic condition. Afib symptoms are usually sharp and immediate. Those with Afib have reported feeling including dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and chest pain.

Over the years, doctors and researchers have identified stress as a major cause of several health issues. These health issues are ranging from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and even personality disorders. To serious life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. But can stress cause AFib (atrial fibrillation)?

In today’s article, we will discuss the link between chronic stress and AFib. As it is the most common type of arrhythmia seen in patients today. We will also discuss chronic stress as the cause of other common heart issues as well.


Physical and Emotional Causes of Afib


There is a wide variety of so-called risk factors that are considered to contribute to the development of AFib. We say a variety because many different factors can be blamed for the arrhythmias instead of one single cause.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

When you talk with your doctor, ask these questions if you think you may have anxiety or AFib.

If you suspect anxiety:

  • Could my anxiety be related to my physical health?
  • Should I see a mental health specialist?
  • Do I need counseling or medication?
  • What can I do at home to feel less anxious?
  • Are there foods or drinks I should avoid?

If you suspect AFib:

  • Which type of AFib might I have: paroxysmal, persistent, or permanent?
  • What’s the cause?
  • Are there foods or drinks I should avoid?
  • What kinds of activities or exercises are safe?
  • What activities or exercises should I avoid?
  • Do I need to have a procedure or surgery?
  • Do I need to take medication?
  • What are the next steps?


AFib being a one-time occurrence is not a problem.

There is a problem when you experience AFib on a day-to-day basis or more or less common than that. 

When we say that most of us have had an AFib, we are thinking of extreme happiness as the cause. Yes, sometimes, extreme happiness can cause your heart to skip a bit. However, that does not make it a medical emergency. Feeling frightened can also cause your heart to skip a bit. And even cause you to feel as if your heart is about to jump out of your chest. 


Stress as a Potential Cause for Afib

If you think about it, any strong emotion can cause AFib including stress and anxiety. This should not come as a surprise if we discuss stress and anxiety as the common causes of several worrying health issues and risks. According to a study published in Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine:

Stress, anger, and depression are the three most common negative psychological causes for AFib.

Whenever we are feeling stressed and anxious, there is a whole chain of events that sets off in our bodies. It all starts with the release of a well-known hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up, but also your blood pressure to rise. Your muscles are tense and contracted. 

These are the events that are a part of the “fight or flight” response in a stressful situation.

AFib occurs due to a sudden and unexpected surge of adrenaline, muscle tension, and hyperventilation, caused by stress and anxiety.

study published in the Indian Pacing and Electrophysiology Journal investigated the link between stress and AFib. The researchers that were working on this study explained how chronic stress and AFib are linked with one another. Not only is stress a cause for AFib and arrhythmia in general, but also AFib is a cause for stress.

In fact, the researchers discussed how patients who had an increased sympathetic activity due to stress are exposed to the greatest risk of developing a fatal AFib. With fatal meaning that it can put an end to their lives by causing a stroke or other threatening issues.

2001 review of 96 studies investigated the link between different psychological stressors and arrhythmia. 92% of the studies demonstrated a positive link between psychological stressors and arrhythmias, defining stress as one of the main psychological causes for AFib. 

What Other Heart Issues Can Be Caused Due to Stress?

Over the years, stress has been linked as a direct and indirect cause of many heart issues, including arrhythmias. The presence of chronic stress and high cortisol levels can contribute to an increase in cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. By doing so, stress is indirectly contributing to heart disease, since all of the previously mentioned events are known risk factors for heart disease.

Chronic stress can also increase the thickness of blood, making it more likely for blood clots to form. Such an event increases the risk of stroke, although not a heart issue, is still a life-threatening health issue.

But did you know that stress can directly damage your heart? That is by causing a condition known as stress-cardiomyopathy.

Stress-cardiomyopathy is also known as broken heart syndrome.

This condition is caused as a result of intense physical or emotional stress, which causes severe damage to the heart muscle. Stress-cardiomyopathy is a potentially life-threatening condition and requires proper treatment right away.


Lowering Your Risk For Afib

Lowering stress levels naturally has a positive impact on your overall health and decreases your likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation. Besides that, there are lots of different lifestyle choices you can make to keep your heart healthy:

  • Don't smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
  • Manage your alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Stay physically active


AFib can be caused by the use of certain medications, alcoholism, inactivity, but also stress. We seem to mention stress more and more as one of the main causes of poor physical and mental health. Today we discussed the link between AFib and stress. As well as events that are eventually leading to AFib in patients who are struggling with chronic stress.







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