Infographic: Living with Atrial Fibrillation

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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

Avoid smoking

Reduce stress

Reduce alcohol consumption

Improve sleep habits

Exercise

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.

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