Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Does atrial fibrillation make you tired?
No one wants to feel tired all the time. Yet, that is what most people suffering from atrial fibrillation endure every day. While the answer to the question, does atrial fibrillation make you tired is obviously yes, in this article I’ll explain why it makes you fatigued and how you can fix this problem.
Why does atrial fibrillation cause fatigue?
Having spent the last 30 years of my career caring for people with atrial fibrillation, the number one symptom I hear is fatigue. Indeed, studies have confirmed that feeling tired is a hallmark symptom of atrial fibrillation.
As most of my patients with atrial fibrillation struggle with fatigue, here the top 5 reasons I have found as to why atrial fibrillation makes you so tired.
1. Losing 20-30% of Your Heart Function Can Make You Tired
When your heart is out of rhythm, the upper chambers of the heart are no longer pumping. Thus, you lose 20-30% of your overall cardiac function as the bottom two chambers are doing all of the work. And this 20 to 30% loss of cardiac performance is more than enough reason to make anyone feel tired.
2. A Rapidly Beating Heart Causes Fatigue
When most people go out of rhythm, their heart rate suddenly jumps up. Indeed, many people have a resting pulse of 100 beats per minute or faster when they are out of rhythm. With this fast of a heart rate, it is almost as if they are always running on a treadmill and their heart never gets a chance to rest.
3. An Irregular Pulse Makes You Tired
Another possibility is that the irregularity of your pulse with atrial fibrillation makes you tired. While there isn’t a lot of research in this area, we do know that there are many nerve endings in your heart tissue. It is possible that activation of the vagus nerve, which connects your heart and brain, causes you to feel tired when your heart is out of rhythm.
4. Atrial Fibrillation Medications Cause Fatigue
Most atrial fibrillation patients are on a lot of medications. Putting all of these chemicals into your body can have side effects. And if you don’t know what these side effects are then my guess is that you just haven’t discovered it yet.
To help illustrate this point, let me challenge you to read the package insert of any atrial fibrillation drug you have been prescribed. I’ll bet that fatigue is somewhere on the list of possible side effects.
Why are atrial fibrillation drugs notorious for causing fatigue? This is because these medicines often slow the heart and drop the blood pressure. Too slow of a heart rate or too low of a blood pressure can definitely cause fatigue.
If you can pin your fatigue down to one medication, then work with your doctor to see if this medication can be eliminated or changed. However, if all of the atrial fibrillation drugs make you tired, then you will likely be looking at a catheter ablation procedure unless you can put your atrial fibrillation into remission with a 100% commitment to healthy living for the rest of your life.
5. Underlying Problems Are Making You Tired
Most cases of atrial fibrillation didn’t happen by chance. There is usually an underlying problem that contributed to the wear and tear on the heart that ultimately caused the atrial fibrillation.
In my practice, at least 80% of atrial fibrillation cases can be at least partially traced back to being overweight, too much sugar or processed carbohydrates, not enough vegetables, a lack of physical activity, excessive stress, or sleep deprivation. Sadly, not only can these conditions cause atrial fibrillation but they can also make you very tired as well. Fortunately, correcting these underlying causes of atrial fibrillation may not only help you to reverse this condition but also energize you in the process.
Atrial fibrillation causes most of my patients to feel tired. Unless you can live with this atrial fibrillation fatigue for the rest of your life, then you need to proactively work with your cardiologist/electrophysiologist to make sure your heart never goes out of rhythm again.
The bottom line is that atrial fibrillation can make you very fatigued. While getting your heart back in rhythm helps tremendously with fatigue, to experience the full energy your body was designed to have will likely require you to treat the underlying causes of your atrial fibrillation. Besides a normal heart rhythm, nothing will cure your fatigue faster than getting back to a healthy weight, eating real foods, making physical activity a part of every day, embracing stress, and optimizing your sleep.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.