Depression can put you at a Higher Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder that accounts for 20% to 30% of all strokes.  It is also among the top causes of premature deaths in women.  Studies show that nearly 120,000 people are being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation annually.  Most of them complain of experiencing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Palpation
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain and
  • Shortness of breath.

In this condition, the atria or the upper two chambers of the heart start to beat chaotically or irregularly, and out of coordination with the ventricles (the heart’s lower two chambers).  Over time, Atrial Fibrillation can lead to blood clot formation in the heart, which may then circulate to other body organs and block the flow of blood, thereby resulting in stroke and sudden death.

Though many causes have been identified for the possibility of developing Atrial Fibrillation such as sinus syndrome, viral infections, sleep apnea, exposure to stimulants (caffeine and alcohol), stress, abnormal heart valves, and high blood pressure, recent studies have proven that depression is also a contributing factor.

Preliminary research reports published by leading sources in the field such as the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and the American Heart Association, have proven that depression is strongly linked to Atrial Fibrillation.  Taking into consideration the study1Fenger-Grøn, M., Vestergaard, M., Pedersen, H. S., Frost, L., Parner, E. T., Ribe, A. R., & Davydow, D. S. (2019). Depression, antidepressants, and the risk of non-valvular atrial fibrillation: A nationwide Danish matched cohort study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 26(2), 187–195. published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, research investigated the association of depression and antidepressants with Atrial Fibrillation in patients.  The study was conducted over a span of 13 years from 2000 to 2013 on the Danish population.  The risk of Atrial Fibrillation was assessed before and after starting the treatment for depression.

It was observed that the condition of Atrial Fibrillation was 7.65 fold higher and more common in patients with depression before they started taking antidepressants.  Furthermore, it was assessed that patients on antidepressants had nearly a 3.18 fold higher risk of developing Atrial Fibrillation during the first month of their treatment.  The association did however, gradually lower thereafter to roughly 1.37 fold by 6 months and 1.11 fold by 12 months.

The study concluded that depression can place an individual at a higher risk of developing Atrial Fibrillation, if treatment is not sought immediately.  In addition, antidepressant medication is not linked with the development of Atrial Fibrillation, contrary to what many assumed.  Make sure to visit your doctor for a full check-up and seek proper treatment for depression to minimise your risk of Atrial Fibrillation.