Treatment for AFib often includes a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common irregular heart rhythm condition. AFib causes erratic, unpredictable electrical activity in your heart’s upper chambers.
During an AFib event, electrical signals make the heart beat rapidly and irregularly. These chaotic heartbeats can cause a variety of symptoms, including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
AFib may cause symptoms from time to time. These symptoms can be bothersome. The greatest risk from AFib is stroke or heart failure. People with AFib have an increased risk of experiencing these two complications.
Your lifestyle can greatly affect your risk of experiencing AFib events, stroke, and heart failure. Here are several lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk.
More than almost any other factor, what you eat can affect how you feel. The
A diet designed for people with heart disease can be helpful for people with AFib. Focus on eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Flavor your food with fresh herbs or vinegar instead of salt. Use lean cuts of meat, and aim to eat fish two to three times per week.
Food can also impact whether an AFib treatment works for you. For example, people who take warfarin (Coumadin) to reduce their risk of blood clots must be aware of their vitamin K intake.
Vitamin K is a nutrient in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and fish. It plays a role in the body’s production of clotting factors.
The consumption of vitamin K-rich foods while taking warfarin can cause unsteady clotting levels. This affects your stroke risk. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the significance of vitamin K intake for your treatment.
Experts recommend non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants instead of warfarin because vitamin K doesn’t reduce the effects of non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants like warfarin does. Talk with your doctor about which medications might be right for you.
If you experience AFib events, you can try to quit smoking cigarettes. Nicotine, the habit-forming chemical in cigarettes, is a stimulant. Stimulants increase your heart rate and can possibly cause an AFib event.
Additionally, quitting can benefit your overall health. Smoking is a risk factor for several conditions, including coronary artery disease and cancer. Many people trying to quit smoking can do so with over-the-counter smoking cessation patches and gums. If those don’t work for you, talk with your doctor about other medications or therapies.
A glass of wine may help you relax after a long day, but it could cause serious problems for your heart if you have AFib. Studies show that alcohol can trigger an AFib episode. People who drink heavily tend to have a higher likelihood of experiencing an AFib episode.
But it’s not just large amounts of alcohol that can put you at risk. A 2021 study showed that a single glass of wine could increase arrhythmic episodes. For people with existing AFib, one alcoholic drink increased AFib risks two-fold. Two or more drinks increased risks three-fold.
Caffeine is a stimulant in many foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate. For some people with AFib, caffeine may pose a threat, since stimulants can increase your heart rate. Something that changes your natural rhythm could cause an AFib episode.
However, research shares that many people with AFib can consume up to 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day safely. That’s about 3 cups of coffee. One cup of coffee has around 95 mg, while a cup of black tea has about 47 mg. A 12-ounce can of soda can have 30 to 45 mg. Also, caffeine may block adenosine, a chemical that can trigger arrhythmias and AFib episodes.
Additionally, a 2018 research review suggested that 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day may actually lower the risk of irregular heart rhythms. In the observational studies reviewed, coffee consumption linked with mildly lower occurrences of heart rate changes.
Health professionals can often be cautious about caffeine, so they may advise people under their care to avoid it altogether. However, some research in a review showed that only 25% of participants with AFib reported caffeine as a trigger for their arrhythmia. Talk with your doctor about your risks.
Exercise is important for your overall health and heart health. Regular physical activity can prevent many conditions that complicate AFib, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and possibly cancer.
Exercise is good for your mind, too. For some people, dealing with AFib can cause great anxiety and fear. Exercise can help naturally improve your mood and prevent emotional issues.
Rest and relaxation are beneficial to your body and your mind. Stress and anxiety can cause dramatic physical and chemical changes, especially to your heart. Proper relaxation can help heal the damage.
If you make time on your calendar for business meetings and appointments, you need to make time for fun, too. Try to give yourself a better work-life balance, and your heart will thank you for it.
Treatment for AFib isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan. People with AFib may want to consider creating their own treatment plan with their doctor. This plan will probably include both medications and lifestyle changes.
Finding the best treatment plan may take some time. Your doctor may try several types of treatments with you before finding one that best helps prevent AFib symptoms. In time, however, you can prevent some of your risk factors and reduce the likelihood of AFib-related complications.