Atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of the most common abnormal or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) in the world today. In AF, the atria (upper heart chambers) contract in a chaotic way causing the blood to pump through the heart less efficiently. Since the atria do not contract properly, blood pools in these chambers and tends to form clots. These clots may dislodge, and if they develop in the left atrium, can result in the most common complication of AF; a stroke. The risk of a stroke can be reduced dramatically though if the AF is diagnosed early and managed appropriately.

Why do want to know who are at high risk of developing atrial fibrillation?

The problem with AF is that, in many patients, it doesn’t cause any symptoms for them to present to their doctors. During this asymptomatic stage, clot formation can still occur. Together with the fact that AF can result in a stroke, it’s then very important that patients who are at high risk of developing AF are identified and treated early.

Premature atrial contractions as a risk factor for atrial fibrillation

Risk factors for AF include an advancing age, increased body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure and diabetes. Managing these issues has led to a drastic reduction in deaths due to AF-related events over the last 50 years.
Another risk factor for the development of AF is the occurrence of premature atrial contractions (PACs). PACs are very common and they can trigger the initiation of AF. Therefore, people who have a high number of PACs also have a higher risk of developing AF.

Can PACs be predicted or treated?
The risk factors for developing PACs are similar to AF. As we grow older, the muscle fibres in the atria (upper chambers of the heart) are replaced with less efficient fibrous tissue, which is a risk factor for PACs. An increased height is also an apparent risk factor for developing PACs, but there isn’t any concrete evidence to substantiate this claim.

Can we reduce the risk of PACs?

Aspects that can be modified to reduce the risk of developing PACs include in corporating one to two hours of physical activity a day, and properly managing conditions such as high cholesterol levels and heart failure, if present.

PACs occur in most people over 50 years of age. PACs are harmless in themselves, but they may trigger AF. Unfortunately, atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. We can practice risk factor prevention by lifestyle modifications that will include daily exercise (one to two hours a day of moderate exercise) and eating a healthy diet.

Furthermore, tight control and the appropriate management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, which are risk factors for developing heart diseases, can be further protective. Further research and investigation is needed to determine whether suppressing PACs with anti-arrhythmic medication can reduce the risk of AF and, in turn,the development of stroke.

Author's Bio: 

Sagar Mandan is HR and Writer at Techssocial. He likes to share his knowledge by means of writing articles on news, tech, health etc. He likes to stay with family and friends when he is free from work.