Living with Atrial Fibrillation: Optimizing Outcomes for Better Health
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Over 5.5 million Americans live with atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when stray electrical pulses send the heart out of rhythm.
- Atrial fibrillation may cause a person to feel lightheaded, weak, or dizzy
- If left unchecked, clots can form and cause a stroke
Traditional treatments include:
Medication: Drugs reduce fibrillation events in many chronic cases
Cardioversion procedure: In acute cases, an electrical shock can put the heart back in rhythm
Cardiac ablation procedure: In serious cases, an ablation procedure can disrupt faulty electrical paths in the heart
Research shows people can improve or eliminate atrial fibrillation by making changes to their lifestyle
Eat a heart-healthy diet
Avoid caffeine and stimulants
Reduce alcohol consumption
Improve sleep habits
Weight loss and healthy weight maintenance provide the most dramatic improvements
After losing 3-9% of body mass with exercise and diet, 22% of patients achieved freedom from atrial fibrillation symptoms without surgery or medication
After losing 10% or more of body mass with exercise and diet, 45% of patients achieved freedom from atrial fibrillation symptoms without surgery or medication
- A heart specialist evaluates a person's overall health condition, not just his or her heart, and may prescribe lifestyle changes alone or in conjunction with other treatments.
- As with any treatment, there are risks involved. Ask your doctor if starting an exercise program is safe for you.
Sources: MayoClinic.org; Heart.org; Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.gov.