I spent almost 7 years fighting Afib before finally beating it back (probably only temporarily for the next 10+ years, but we'll see) with my 3rd ablation by Dr. Natale in May 2011. There are a ton of indicators for Afib, and endurance sports are just one of them. In talking with 5-6 of the leading cardiologists & electro cardiologists in the U.S., here was what I concluded seemed to be their shared opinion:
1. Genetics play a huge role. A large % of the population gets Afib as they get older. However a large % does not. If your father/mother had it, you will likely get it as you age, and there isn't much you can do about it.
2. Body morphology: if you are a guy, barrel chested, and tall, you are much, much more likely to get it at some point.
3. Endurance sports, especially when young---they didn't necessarily break down what "young" means, especially as the majority of their patients were north of 50++, but quite a few of them asked me during the diagnosis/background stage what sports I played in high school & college.....they all seemed to believe that an endurance background gave one a larger chance of developing afib at some point.
4. Diet. Smoking, bad. Caffeine, pretty bad. Drinking alot of alcohol consistently, very bad. Sugary/high-carb diet, very, very bad. Combo of any of the above for an extended period of time---yeah, you are basically begging for it.
So glad I stumbled across this thread and so thankful to all who have shared their stories and expertise. As far as the above, I'm 4 for 4, minus the smoking part. I also have mild sleep apnea which I bet many others do as well. My Afib has been sporadic up until this month. I would have very brief episodes that would self-convert within minutes; sometimes during runs. I simply wrote them off as too much caffeine or harmless "flutter".
But on my last three runs, Afib hit almost immediately and I couldn't exert anywhere near the level I'm accustomed to. As soon as my heart rate got into the 150s and tried to come down, it would get stuck and bounce between 90-140bpm. It would self convert only after 8-10 hours, usually with a deep sleep cycle.
The last time this happened, I went to the E.R. so I could get this documented. That was traumatic. They made 3 attempts to convert using shock, all at progressively higher power levels. Put me on the Michael Jackson drug (propofol?). Didn't even offer me candy. Claimed I'd neither feel or remember anything. They lied and all attempts failed. Surprisingly, a drug cocktail of flecainide and a beta blocker finally did the trick.
So now I'm scheduled to see Dr. Thomos Molloy at SW Advent in Oregon. He does a robotic "miniMaze" procedure which is proclaimed to have a better chance at being a one-shot fix vs. the catheter ablations. If anyone has any experience with this type of technique, please share.