An atrial fibrillation diagnosis may feel overwhelming—but here’s the good news: it's possible to live a normal, active life with AFib. And you’re not alone; AFib is the most common type of irregular heartbeat (also known as an arrhythmia) among those in the United States.
Here are five tips to help you live safely with AFib.
1. Follow your doctor's advice
This should go without saying, but you need to follow your healthcare provider's guidelines to avoid additional heart-related incidences.
2. Watch for warning signs
For some, AFib never causes a problem. But for others, it can lead to strokes and heart attacks or heart failure. If you feel your heart "skipping a beat" often, or if you have other AFib symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and chest pain, see your doctor.
3. Lifestyle changes
You may need to make lifestyle changes to improve the health of your heart, especially to prevent or treat complications or conditions like high blood pressure. Good ideas include:
Eat heart-healthy foods. Go for foods that are low in refined sugars, trans fats, and sodium. Fruits and veggies are good choices, along with salmon, legumes, and whole grains.
Be active. Regular physical activity can help you reduce your risk of complications. But be aware that vigorous exercise can sometimes aggravate AFib. Your doctor can help you develop a good exercise program.
Quit smoking. Studies show that current and former smokers have an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Plus, smoking increases your risk of stroke.
Limit alcohol. Moderate to heavy drinking and binge drinking are linked to further heart rhythm disturbances.
4. Lower your risk for stroke
Stroke occurs about five times more often in people with AFib. Reduce your risk by avoiding diabetes and high blood pressure, two conditions that increase the likelihood of stroke. By controlling your weight, eating foods low in sugar and salt, and developing low-carb diet habits, you can help lower your blood sugar and blood pressure and reduce your risk of AFib complications.
5. Be careful with medications
You may be prescribed medications to reduce your stroke risk, including blood thinners, when you’re diagnosed with AFib. If this is the case, you need to know that many medications, including over-the-counter medications, herbal preparations, and vitamins, can interfere with another medication’s effectiveness. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how to prevent complications.
How will you incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyle? Share with the community in the comments below.