The exact cause of atrial fibrillation is unknown, but it's more common with age and affects certain groups of people more than others.
Atrial fibrillation is common in people with other heart conditions, such as:
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- heart valve disease
- congenital heart disease
It's also associated with other medical conditions, including:
- an overactive thyroid gland
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- lung cancer
- type 2 diabetes
- pulmonary embolism
- carbon monoxide poisoning
But not everyone with atrial fibrillation has one of the conditions above. It can sometimes affect people who are physically very fit, such as athletes.
When no other conditions are associated with atrial fibrillation, it's known as lone atrial fibrillation.
Certain situations can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation, including:
- drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, particularly binge drinking
- being overweight (read about how to lose weight)
- drinking lots of caffeine, such as tea, coffee or energy drinks
- taking illegal drugs, particularly amphetamines or cocaine