To learn more about what patients felt was especially important to study about the disease, researchers held a brainstorming session in 2014.
Patients said researching individual triggers for AF was their top priority, giving rise to the I-STOP-AFib study, which enabled individuals to test any presumed AF trigger.
About 450 people participated, more than half of whom (58 percent) were men, and the overwhelming majority of whom were white (92 percent).
Participants in the randomized clinical trial utilized a mobile electrocardiogram recording device along with a phone app to log potential triggers like drinking alcohol and caffeine, sleeping on the left side or not getting enough sleep, eating a large meal, a cold drink, or sticking to a particular diet, engaging in exercise, or anything else they thought was relevant to their AF.
Although participants were most likely to select caffeine as a trigger, there was no association with AF. Recent research has also similarly failed to demonstrate a relationship between caffeine and arrhythmias — on the contrary, they found it may have a protective effect.
The new study demonstrated that consumption of alcohol was the only trigger that consistently resulted in significantly more self-reported AF episodes.
The individualized testing method, known as n-of-1, did not validate participant-selected triggers for AF. But trial participants did report fewer AF episodes than those in the control group, and the data suggest that behaviors like avoiding alcohol could lessen the chances of having an AF episode.
“This completely remote, siteless, mobile-app based study will hopefully pave the way for many investigators and patients to conduct similar personalized “n-of-1″ experiments that can provide clinically relevant information specific to the individual,” said Marcus, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UCSF.
This finding might help people to reduce their risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) by avoiding certain triggers.