Is Afib Hereditary?

December 14, 2021

Do your genetics contribute to your risk of atrial fibrillation? Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Rajesh Bankers explains.

Atrial fibrillation or Afib is a very common heart disorder with estimates of about 5 million American adults suffering from the condition. As we’ve touched on elsewhere on this website, the significant concern revolves around the five times increased risk of stroke, significantly increased risk of heart attack and the potential for long term heart failure. And while most of the atrial fibrillation patients we see are of middle to advanced age, it does not only affect one age group. In fact, very young and even very fit people can get atrial fibrillation.

As such, it is natural to ask whether Afib is hereditary – whether it runs in families. The short answer is yes, it absolutely can be hereditary and there is ample evidence to support the fact that in some families, Afib risk is indeed higher. We call this familial atrial fibrillation.

Some research has been performed to understand the cause of familial Afib and there is evidence to show a genetic component. However, determining the exact causes of familial Afib are not necessarily a top priority because the condition is so treatable. Further, it is tied to some lifestyle and health issues, making the cause potentially multi factorial.

Should I Worry if a Family Member Has Atrial Fibrillation?

No, don’t worry yourself, but get your heart checked regularly as you get older and especially if you feel any abnormalities. Electrophysiologists like Dr. Banker have the diagnostic tools to catch Afib at its earliest and most treatable phase. While you shouldn’t worry that you will get Afib – many people will develop it regardless of their family history – you should always report irregular heartbeats or strange sensations to your primary care physician and ultimately visit an electrophysiologist.

Of note, cardiovascular disease can be hereditary and there are many heart problems that cause similar symptoms to Afib. Therefore, if you believe you’re having a true cardiac emergency, do not wait for a doctor’s appointment. Call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately.

What Can I Do to Prevent Familial Afib?

Just because family members have Afib does not necessarily mean that you will develop it as well. However, genetic, or familial predispositions are not modifiable factors in your life – there’s nothing you can change. You can, on the other hand, give yourself the best chance of avoiding Afib by eating well and maintaining a normal weight, exercising regularly and not smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. Ultimately, your overall health is predictive of your risk of Afib.

If you or a family member is suffering from Afib and need to speak to an electrophysiologist, please call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Banker who can offer a comprehensive diagnosis and ultimately treatment plan, if necessary.