Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a relatively common disorder that affects more than 2.5 million people within the United States alone. AFib can cause a chaotic heartbeat pattern, which leads to inadequate blood-flow through the body. Common symptoms include heart palpitations, confusion, and shortness of breath. Those who suffer from AFib may experience symptoms come and go in episodes, or may have sustained symptoms that require treatment. While not typically life-threatening, arterial fibrillation is a serious condition that may require treatment, and may lead to complications like blood clots.
While AFib can be partially treated with medications, lifestyle changes are a critical element to ensuring that your risk of suffering from an episode is minimal. Fortunately, this can mostly be achieved with a few simple changes to your diet. Below you can learn all about what you should and shouldn’t be eating when you’re trying to manage atrial fibrillation.
If you suffer from AFib, even a couple of beers may present a serious health risk. Researchers have found that even moderate alcohol consumption increases your risk of an AFib episode. This is particularly true for anyone over the age of 55, or anyone who consumes more than five drinks per day. Anyone suffering from intermittent atrial fibrillation should steer clear of alcohol to the best of their ability.
AFib and Caffeine
As a stimulant, caffeine has long been thought to be a serious risk factor. However, the latest research suggests that earlier intuitions about the risk of mixing caffeine and atrial fibrillation may have been incorrect. Many doctors now believe that caffeine appears to be dangerous to AFib patients only in very high doses, or when the caffeine contributes to dehydration, which can cause an AFib event. In short, those who suffer from AFib can safely tolerate normal amounts of caffeine without raising their risk for an episode, provided only that they remain well-hydrated.
However, nearly all other stimulants do need to be strictly avoided. This includes some over-the-counter cold medicines that may contain stimulants like pseudoephedrine. This also includes smoking because nicotine stimulates the heart, which can lead to an AFib episode, as well as increase your risk for coronary artery disease.
A Heart-Friendly Diet
If you suffer from obesity and high blood pressure, you’re at a significantly higher risk of suffering from an AFib event. Cardiologists have found that the appropriate atrial fibrillation diet is largely a matter of reduced fat intake. This means lowering your cholesterol, trans fat, and saturated fat consumption. These fats are commonly found in margarine, fatty meats, butter, cheese, and dairy. It’s also important to steer clear of salt, which can increase your blood pressure and increase your risk in the process.
As for helping your heart, the two most important dietary requirements are potassium and vitamin K. Potassium is important in helping muscles, like the heart, to work efficiently. You can get potassium from a variety of sources including many roots, prunes, avocados, fruits, and coconut water. Cardiologists also recommend regular consumption of vitamin K, which can be found in leafy vegetables and vegetable oil.
With a low-fat, low-sodium diet, you can avoid increasing your risk for an AFib incident. With a few vegetables added to your diet, you can strengthen your heart and reduce your risk even further. Just about anyone can lead a normal life with their atrial fibrillation — morning coffee included — provided that they take care of their health with the right diet.
Do you suffer from AFib? What foods do you typically avoid? If you have any favorite healthy recipes, we’d love it if you shared them with us in the comments below.