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Heart Health Center

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Helping Someone With AFib: Healthy Lifestyle

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WebMD Feature

You want to make sure your loved one who has atrial fibrillation is living as healthfully as possible for someone with their condition. Like anyone else, a person with AFib will be healthier and feel better when he or she eats well, gets regular exercise, doesn't smoke, and minimizes stress.

AFib-Friendly Meals

You don't need to know anything special to prepare food for someone with AFib or guide them about what to eat. Like everyone, people with AFib need plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. They also need to avoid foods high in saturated fats (red meat and baked goods) and trans fats (margarine, fast food, and packaged food).

Since high blood pressure can contribute to AFib, it’s also a good idea to minimize sodium. Add flavor to foods using a variety of spices and herbs instead of salt. Avoid salty foods, including canned soups, frozen entrees, and processed foods.

Here's what the plate of a person with AFib should look like at each meal:

  • Two-thirds of the plate covered with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans
  • One-third or less covered with animal protein

To build AFib-friendly menus, go to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) web site and look for the American Plate tool. The AICR designed the tool to help people with AFib stay at a healthy weight by eating nutritious foods.

Ensuring that your loved one with AFib eats well can lower their risk of chronic illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.

Consistent Vitamin K for AFib

Your loved one with AFib may take a blood thinner like Coumadin (warfarin, jantoven) to lower their greater risk of stroke. Vitamin K interferes with warfarin, and many green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin K. So should you avoid serving these veggies to your loved one?

Just the opposite, says Greg Feld, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at the University of California, San Diego. People with AFib need to "have a healthy diet with vegetables! Don’t cut back on veggies and salads.”

The key, Feld says, is for a person with AFib to eat a consistentamount of veggies high in vitamin K. For instance, don’t eat salad every day one week and not at all the next. “For my patients, I tell them to eat plenty of vegetables, just not to make any sudden changes in their diet, and we’ll adjust their warfarin dose to keep it at therapeutic levels.”

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