Life with atrial fibrillation has its challenges, for sure. But with the right treatment and some lifestyle changes, you can stay active and energetic.
Symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and a fast heartbeat can make it harder to get around and do your daily activities. You might have to adjust your routine because of your symptoms or the medicine you take to treat them.
Here are a few simple changes you can make and good habits you can practice to protect your heart and help you feel your best:
A diet heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is always a good idea. Here are a few other diet tips for people who have AFib:
- Go to a healthier-fat, low-salt diet. Avoid saturated fat, trans fat, and salt to help control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This will also protect your blood vessels.
- Limit caffeine. Watch how much soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate you have. These can make your heart race.
- Cut back on alcohol. A drink or two might be safe with your doctor's OK. But large amounts can set off bouts of AFib. If you take blood thinners, alcohol could make you bleed too much.
- Regular amounts of vitamin K. People who take the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) need to be careful about eating foods that are high in vitamin K such as broccoli, spinach, or lettuce.
Your body uses vitamin K to help your blood clot. Coumadin stops blood clots from forming. Eating a lot or very little of this vitamin can affect how well your medicine works. Try to eat about the same amount of vitamin K-rich foods each day.
Become More Active
You can still exercise when you have AFib. Staying active will help control your weight, improve your sleep, and make your heart stronger. See your doctor before you start any new fitness program to make sure the activity is safe for you.
Ask your doctor how to handle your AFib during exercise. If your heart goes out of rhythm during a workout, stop and rest.
Control Your Weight
You have a higher chance of AFib when you are too heavy. It also makes your AFib more likely to come back after a procedure such as ablation.
To manage your condition, try to lose at least 10% of your body weight with diet and exercise if your doctor or dietician has told you that you’re obese.
The nicotine in cigarettes can make this condition worse. Smoking also damages your blood vessels and raises your chances for heart disease and a heart attack.
Ask your doctor to recommend a method, such as medicine or nicotine replacement, to help you quit.
Stress can trigger AFib episodes. When you feel anxious, try relaxation techniques such as these:
- Deep breathing
If your stress feels overwhelming, see a therapist or seek out a support group for help.
Get Enough Sleep
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. About half of people with AFib don't sleep well because their breathing stops over and over again during the night -- a condition called sleep apnea.
If you snore or feel like you never get a good night's rest, see your doctor for a diagnosis.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
Your doctor will prescribe medicine or other treatments to control your heart rhythm and prevent blood clots. Take your medicine just as prescribed. Don't change the dose or stop taking it without first asking your doctor.
Medicines and Supplements
Some medications, such as cough and cold medicines, have stimulants that can make your heart beat faster. Other medicines and supplements you take can interact poorly with your AFib drugs.
Tell your doctor and pharmacist before you take any new medicine -- even ones you buy at the drugstore without a prescription.