Being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib) is generally followed by a range of emotions and questions. You may start wondering about the severity of your condition and prognosis. You may even experience emotional stress, including uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. However, the good part is that although AFib is a long-term condition, you can continue to lead a long and healthy life if it’s managed correctly. There are several steps you can take to manage AFib, lower your risk of stroke, and relieve any worries you may have.
Life with atrial fibrillation has its own challenges. But with the right care and lifestyle changes, you can stay active and energetic. Here are a few things you can avoid to protect your heart and help you feel your best.
Avoiding food and drink that can directly trigger symptoms and raise the risk of AFib is one of the best ways to manage it.
Even small to moderate amounts of alcohol can trigger atrial fibrillation, so alcohol should be completely avoided in patients with AFib. Swap alcoholic beverages for low-calorie options. In addition, people with AFib are more likely to experience increased vagal activity after alcohol consumption, which can eventually lead to transient atrial fibrillation episodes. Vagal tone is the level of activity of the vagus nerve, a long nerve running from the brain stem through the neck and below, and it affects various organs, including the heart.
High salt intake can trigger episodes of AFib. It is believed that high salt intake increases water retention and causing excessive atrial stretching that leads to AFib. Salt intake should be limited to 1500-2000 mg/day. Switching to salt alternatives and cooking fresh food is a good way of avoiding excessive salt intake.
Limiting your daily intake of caffeine is typically advisable in the case of AFib. Limit coffee intake to 1-2 cups (up to 300 mg) a day. Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea can cause irregular heartbeats (ref. link). However, there is not much evidence that caffeine can trigger episodes of AFib. If a person thinks caffeine could be a personal trigger, avoiding caffeinated foods and drinks should be a good idea.
Red meats – such as beef and lamb – contain more saturated fats than white meat. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, leading to AFib. Substitute red meat for white meat or plant-based protein to lower cholesterol levels.
Avoid food and drinks that contain large amounts of sugar as they are likely to trigger AFib episodes. Excessive sugar increases the risk of heart diseases.
Gluten is a structural protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Eating food rich in gluten (such as bread, pasta, condiments, and many packaged foods) can increase inflammation of arteries (ref. link), subsequently leading to an increase in AFib episodes.
Aged cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, and gorgonzola, as well as pepperoni, salami, soybean, and snow peas, are found to contain tyramine. Tyramine is capable of raising blood pressure and eventually triggering AFib.
Processed foods, such as ready-to-eat meals or sausages, tend to contain large quantities of salt and preservatives. It is advised to limit the intake to avoid episodes of Afib (ref. link).
Mild- or moderate-intensity exercise is typically protective; however, intense exercise typically carries a higher risk of atrial fibrillation.
Stress can be a major contributor to heart rhythm disorders (ref. link), including atrial fibrillation. Stress and anxiety can worsen your atrial fibrillation symptoms. Some of the stress management ideas are:
AFib is a long-term medical condition, the severity of which changes over time. But there are a few things you can do to manage this condition effectively. Diet can help lower the risk factors that cause AFib and, in some cases, reduce its symptoms.
Switching to a Mediterranean diet (ref. link) or a plant-based diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats may benefit overall heart health and reduce the risk of a heart stroke. Other changes that may help improve AFib includes doing moderate exercise, getting adequate sleep, quitting smoking, and prioritising time to relax and reduce stress.
If you have already been diagnosed with AFib, awareness of your health and of the situations that may potentially trigger an episode plays an essential role in controlling the symptoms.
Finally, the best way to ensure your heart stays healthy is by monitoring it. You can keep tabs your heart health using our revolutionary Frontier X2 heart monitoring device.
The most common Afib triggering activities are:
You can exercise as long as your heart rate is under control, you are stable on your treatment, and are feeling well.
Sleeping is a known trigger for atrial fibrillation (AF) and is believed to be driven by high vagal nervous movements and obstructive sleep apnea.
Apart from primary symptoms, other symptoms you may experience if you have atrial fibrillation are tiredness and being less able to exercise.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, excessive intake of caffeine, and being overweight may each worsen AFib
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