Does high altitude have a negative effect on A-fib patients?
Submitted by Burt from Las Vegas, Nevada on 05/06/2016
Patients with chronic / permanent atrial fibrillation that is stable without symptoms should generally be fine at high altitude, depending on concomitant other heart conditions. However, the lower oxygen environment effects all individuals during an adaption phase at moderately high altitude and persistently at very high altitude (living at >9000 feet) by increasing the heart rate, increasing circulating adrenaline levels & causing dehydration from low moisture content in the atmosphere. Patients in atrial fibrillation should be alert for loss of good heart rate control at altitude (resting HR >90-100 bpm) as this could add to fatigue & shortness of breath. It would be wise to monitor heart rate and have a plan for medication adjustment if needed per their physician.
For patients with episodes of atrial fibrillation, all the usual stressors of high altitude may (or may not) precipitate a recurrence (paroxysmal atrial fibrillation). Patients tolerate altitude changes better if they are gradual and if a couple of days of restful adaptation is allowed before vigorous activities. Avoid dehydration & alcohol.