I was recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. How will this affect my day-to-day living?

Answers from Martha Grogan, M.D.

Atrial fibrillation — a common heart rhythm disorder — usually isn't life-threatening, but it is a serious medical condition. How you cope with it will depend on many factors.

Treatment

The treatment most appropriate for you will depend on how long you've had atrial fibrillation, how bothersome your symptoms are and the underlying cause.

If your heart's rhythm and rate have been corrected, they may be maintained with medication. Additional medications may be needed to prevent blood clots. It's also important to have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor.

Lifestyle changes

You may also need to make changes that improve your overall health. Your doctor may suggest several lifestyle changes, including:

  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat a healthy diet that's low in salt and solid fats and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise daily and increase your physical activity.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke and can't quit on your own, talk to your doctor about strategies or programs to help you break a smoking habit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. Make lifestyle changes and take medications as prescribed.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
Jul. 18, 2014