It has been suggested that atrial fibrillation (AF) is the new cardiovascular disease epidemic of the 21st century. Clinical cardiology has largely focused on AF treatment and associated stroke prevention rather than preventing AF itself. To reduce the global consequences and associated costs of AF, it is critical to now embrace prevention as a priority. Proactively addressing the risk factors for AF and the underlying unhealthy lifestyle habits that contribute to them, using research-based counseling approaches, represents a complementary and adjunctive alternative in combatting this disease burden.
Encouraging and sustaining patient involvement to reduce AF incidence and improve outcomes begins with screening to identify risk factors, unhealthy lifestyle habits, and characteristics associated with failed attempts at favorably modifying these causalities. Modulators of and common barriers to achieving risk reduction and lifestyle change include self-efficacy, social support, age, sex, marital and socioeconomic status, education, employment, and psychosocial factors such as depression, isolation, anxiety and chronic life stress. Focused behavioral counseling approaches, including assessing the patient’s readiness to change, motivational interviewing and using the 5 A’s (assess, advise, agree, assist, arrange), along with employing initial downscaled goals to overcome inertia, are proven methodologies to overcome these common barriers to favorably modifying risk factors and unhealthy lifestyle habits.
To complement and enhance the current armamentarium for the medical management of cardiac arrhythmias, there is an urgent need to proactively address the causative factors triggering new-onset, recurrent and persistent AF. Beyond the counseling skills of highly trained professionals (eg, psychiatrists, psychologists), this narrative review highlights the need for and potential impact on lifestyle modification that non-behavioral scientists, including internal medicine, cardiology, and allied health professionals, can have on the patients they serve.

Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc.