The problem is one of the major causes of stroke, and it can affect one in four adults over the age of 40—and yet it is so easily controlled, say researchers from the University of California at San Francisco.
Drinking less alcohol and caffeine, giving up smoking, not overdoing the exercise and getting a good night's sleep can all control the problem.
AF sufferers say they were more likely to suffer a bout of irregular heartbeat after one of these factors. Drinking too much alcohol was the most common cause, selected by 35 per cent of 1,295 patients who had completed a survey. Caffeine was chosen by 28 per cent, excessive exercise by 23 per cent and a poor night's sleep by 21 per cent.
Often, the sufferers said two of the lifestyle factors had together triggered an attack.
As well as causing stroke, atrial fibrillation can also lead to dementia, chronic kidney disease and heart attack.