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Heart Health Center

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Helping Someone With AFib: Healthy Lifestyle

Activity for AFib

Your loved one with AFib may worry that exercising too vigorously could cause an episode of fibrillation, with symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness. You may want to encourage them to exercise, because doing so can help reduce some of the factors that affect AFib, such as having high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

“For most people with AFib, their target heart rate to get good aerobic exercise doesn’t need to be over 120 beats per minute,” says Feld. If your loved one keeps their heart rate around that range and is taking on antiarrhythmic medication, they should be fine, Feld says. You can encourage your loved one by reassuring them that there’s no need to exercise so intensely that it pushes them into AFib.

As with any medical condition, people with AFib need to consult their doctors before starting any exercise program.

Smoking, Alcohol, and Caffeine

Smoking is at the top of the list of things people with AFib should avoid. Smoking is a cardiac stimulant, and nicotine can make AFib worse. Plus, smoking is a general risk factor for coronary artery disease, which is linked to AFib.

Helping your loved one with AFib quit smoking is one of the best things you can do for their health. Suggest a variety of techniques to quit, such as trying hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, the nicotine patch, support groups, or electronic cigarettes.

Drinking caffeine and alcohol can both trigger AFib. Moderation is key, Feld says.

“If someone has a glass of wine once in a while, that’s a normal lifestyle habit, and it won’t usually cause AFib episodes in most people. It’s the same with caffeine: I tell my patients that one cup a day is probably not harmful,” he says.

“But don’t overdo it. Three cups of coffee a day or three glasses of wine a night is not a good idea for someone with AFib. Some people are more susceptible than others, too: If you notice that you go into AFib within an hour every time you have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, then you should avoid them completely.”

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