Not too long ago, if your doctor said you needed a blood thinner to prevent a stroke, you didn't have to think too hard about it. Warfarin (Coumadin) was the only way to go. But not anymore. With four other medications to pick from, you'll have to do a little homework to figure out what's best for you.
"It's not a one-size-fits-all choice," says Bruce Lindsay, MD, from Cleveland Clinic. A lot depends on your overall health and your lifestyle.
It's possible that you have problems that need treatment first. Your cardiologist may suggest a cardiac rehabilitation program. Rehab specialists develop a custom exercise program with you, look out for any problems, and help you figure out when it's safe to push yourself.
After you get the OK from your doctor, these tips will help keep you exercising safely. Also check with your doctor to see if there are other specific things you need to know or watch out for.
Build Up Gradually
When you have AFib, jumping into exercise too quickly -- with high intensity or long workouts -- could cause symptoms. Instead, start slowly with 5 to 10 minutes a day of walking. Add a minute or two every week or so.
Your ultimate goal is a total of 30 minutes of activity a day, 5 days a week. You want to boost your heart rate, breathe a little faster, and sweat a bit for a good workout.
Check Your Pulse
Ask your doctor what your heart rate should be while you're exercising and after you've cooled down.
Get his advice on what to do if your pulse is too low: Should you exercise longer, or push yourself harder?
If your pulse is too high, you're more likely to have symptoms. Find out what to do to bring it down.
Watch for Symptoms
When exercise causes pain, extreme breathlessness, or exhaustion, stop. Talk to your doctor before you work out again. You may need tests to make sure you don't have a new problem.
"Aside from the heart benefits, once you add exercise into your life, you'll really feel better," says Gordon Tomaselli, MD, chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Regular exercise helps people get more out of life."