Does atrial fibrillation run in families?
Answer From Rekha Mankad, M.D.
It can. Atrial fibrillation that is inherited is called familial atrial fibrillation. It has been associated with changes in certain genes in a small number of cases. Although the exact incidence of familial atrial fibrillation is unknown, recent studies suggest that up to 30 percent of people with atrial fibrillation may have a relative with the condition.
Atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder, is caused by abnormalities or changes to your heart's structure. Your risk of developing atrial fibrillation increases as you age. Risk also increases if you are male, if you have heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes, and if you are obese.
Research into the genetic factors associated with atrial fibrillation continues with the hope that genetic testing might someday be possible. Such testing could help doctors more accurately determine a person's risk of atrial fibrillation and develop plans to prevent or manage the condition.
If you're concerned that you are at risk because a relative has atrial fibrillation, talk with your doctor. He or she can explain more about atrial fibrillation and check if you have other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, that can be treated.
March 30, 2021
See more Expert Answers
- What is atrial fibrillation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af/. Accessed Sept. 14, 2017.
- National Library of Medicine. Familial atrial fibrillation. Genetics Home Reference. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/familial-atrial-fibrillation. Accessed Sept. 16, 2017.
- Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics — 2017 update. A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e146.
- Weng L-C, et al. Genetic interactions with age, sex, body mass index, and hypertension in relation to atrial fibrillation: The AFGen Consortium. Scientific Reports. 2017;7:11303.
- AskMayoExpert. Atrial fibrillation (adult). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- Lubitz SA, et al. Genetic risk prediction of atrial fibrillation. Circulation. 2017;135:1311.