When you find out you have atrial fibrillation, or AFib, it’s normal to be anxious or worried.
The best way to get over the shock of an AFib diagnosis is understand what it means. The more you know about it, the better you can manage it. This puts you in control and can ease stress about it. Studies show that people with AFib who understand their condition and what it means to them have fewer symptoms.
Things to Do Right Away
First, read about AFib so that you know enough about it to have questions that you can talk about with your doctor.
After you've learned a bit about it:
Talk to your medical team. Reach out to your doctor with a list of questions. One thing you'll want to discuss is best treatment options for you.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
Talk to your family members and loved ones. Keep the conversation positive. You should:
- Explain your diagnosis to them.
- Discuss what it means for you.
- Let them know how it may or may not affect your loved ones.
- Listen to their concerns.
- Include children in the conversation and explain to them that what's going on is not their fault.
If you don’t have answers to some questions, write them down, then reach out to your doctor.
Even after that initial discussion, lean on your family members for support. Remember to ask for help if you need it.
Changes That Can Help
There are plenty of things you can do in your daily life to ease your symptoms and help you feel better. They include:
Exercise. Getting active can help you in a lot of different ways. It can:
You don’t need to do heavy workouts. The key is to exercise regularly. Start small and build up. See how you feel with a 10-minute walk or bike ride, then try to work up to five 30-minute cardio workouts per week.
Make sure to tell your doctor if any activities cause the rhythm of your heartbeat to change.
People with AFib may be nervous about sex. But it can strengthen your heart and your immune system. If you feel like you need to take drugs or supplements for sexual problems, talk with your doctor before you try them.
Eat healthy. Extra weight can trigger symptoms, so it's important that you maintain a healthy weight. Your diet should include lot of:
You should try to stay away from things that are high in sugar, salt, and trans fats.
Talk to your doctor about foods that may get in the way of your medications. For example, if you’re on a blood thinner, you'll probably want to limit foods with a lot of vitamin K like spinach and parsley.
Avoid triggers. Certain things can bring on symptoms, or make them worse. Things to limit or avoid include:
Lack of sleep can be, as well. Do what you can to get better ZZZs. You can try to:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even weekends.
- Create a quiet, cool, and dark sleeping environment.
- Limit naps.
Ease your mind. Stress and depression can strain your heart and make your AFib symptoms worse. Connect with others if you’re feeling down. Talk to friends and family about what you’re going through. Spending time with a support group for people with AFib can help, too.
If you feel down for more than a couple of weeks, go see a mental health professional. Your doctor can recommend one.
Use technology. You can track your heart rhythm with mobile ECG, or electrocardiogram, devices. Some are as small as a pen. Connect the tool to your phone and send the data to your doctor. You can also download it to a website that your provider can access.
You may also use a symptom tracker. Make sure to note any changes in your symptoms and discuss them with your doctor. Medication trackers can help, too. You can log important information like a drug’s name, color, purpose and any instructions you want to remember.
Smartphone apps to track changes in your heartbeat have been around for almost a decade. They use a sensor that alerts you if your heart rhythm changes. One study showed they work well to detect changes in the rhythm. But since the study happened in a doctor’s office, we need more research to really know how well they work. Talk with your doctor about it.