Instead of pumping rhythmically, your heart is fluttering or beating chaotically, which can lead to some serious and life-threatening complications. Called atrial fibrillation, or AFib, this condition is the most common type of arrhythmia and affects more than 6 million people in the United States, a number that’s expected to double by 2030.
Though AFib can be life-threatening, you can view it from another angle — as a wake-up call to take some important steps toward improving your cardiovascular health.
To get you started, the team here at Advanced Cardiology Specialists presents eight management tips that will go a long way toward helping you lead a healthy and active life despite your AFib diagnosis.
Setting you up for success
AFib puts you at risk for some serious complications, including heart attack and stroke, so we want to provide you with treatments that will minimize these risks. Depending upon your health and the severity of your arrhythmia, we might recommend medications, cardiac interventions, and/or pacemakers, all of which can help you better live with AFib.
Once we get your heart beating properly, you can take steps to support these treatments.
1. Quit smoking
If you’re a smoker, make your AFib the one reason for quitting that you don’t ignore. Smoking damages blood vessels, and if you combine that with an irregular heartbeat, you have the perfect combination for serious heart disease.
2. Get moving
Think of your heart like an engine in a car that you don’t use all that often — it doesn’t run all that smoothly. One of the best ways to get your engine, and your heart, to function more smoothly is take them out for a spin.
Exercise is one of the best steps you can take to better manage AFib, and we suggest that you get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week.
3.Ditch the junk food
It's important that you take a close look at your diet and eliminate those foods that are short on nutrients but long on ingredients that harm your health — namely junk foods that contain trans fats and saturated fats. So, fried foods should be off limits, as well as baked goods that contain hydrogenated oils.
4. Add healthier foods
While you're ditching the junk food, we urge you to replace it with foods that support great heart health, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains.
5. Reduce stress
Finding ways to bring more calm into your life can lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. Techniques like deep breathing, mediation, and slow exercises like yoga are fantastic ways to reduce stress.
6. Manage your health
If you have a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes or sleep apnea, it’s paramount that you manage the condition. Ensuring that any chronic illness outside of your AFib is in check can help the two from colliding, which can make a bad health situation exponentially worse.
7. Reduce caffeine
When you have AFib, it’s a good idea to avoid outside stimulants like caffeine.
8. Limit alcohol
Drinking alcohol can trigger your AFib — in fact, people often refer to bouts of AFib as “holiday heart” since the problem tends to rear its head around holidays when people are drinking more than usual.
One study found that even one drink can double your chances of a bout of AFib over the following four hours.
If you’d like us to come up with a more personalized plan for managing your AFib, we’re happy to help. Please contact our office in Mountain View, California, to get started.