Breaking News
December 10, 2018 - A Tale of Two Labels
December 10, 2018 - Triple combination cancer immunotherapy improves outcomes in preclinical melanoma model
December 10, 2018 - A 14-year-old explains what it’s like to get a new heart
December 10, 2018 - Team Players Honored with 2018 Baton Awards
December 10, 2018 - Global report highlights how the changing world is affecting children’s physical activity levels
December 10, 2018 - Genes play a role in physical activity and sleep
December 10, 2018 - DDT in Alaskan fish shown to increase risk of cancer
December 10, 2018 - Laws to curb use of cell phones have greatly reduced fatalities for motorcyclists
December 10, 2018 - Argenx Provides Detailed Data from Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Efgartigimod in Immune Thrombocytopenia and Phase 1/2 Clinical Trial of Cusatuzumab in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
December 10, 2018 - University of Maryland doctors treat first breast cancer patients with GammaPod radiotherapy
December 10, 2018 - The heartbeat seat: Demoing new well-being technologies in a car
December 10, 2018 - Leading Cancer Researcher to Direct Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
December 10, 2018 - Study compares pain-related diagnoses in First Nations and non-First Nations children, youth
December 10, 2018 - Scientists find answers to how cancer spreads
December 10, 2018 - Study explores why older people read more slowly
December 10, 2018 - Smart life-collar could save lives of young children
December 10, 2018 - Asbestos found in most NHS hospitals finds BBC inquiry
December 10, 2018 - Researchers use new technique to probe hydrogen bonds
December 10, 2018 - Music improves social communication in autistic children
December 10, 2018 - Some Brain Tumors May Respond to Immunotherapy, New Study Suggests
December 10, 2018 - Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity
December 10, 2018 - Skin Autofluorescence Predicts T2DM, Heart Disease, Mortality
December 10, 2018 - Largest autism sequencing study to date yields 102 genes associated with ASD
December 10, 2018 - Statins associated with low risk of side effects
December 10, 2018 - Episodic memory tests help in predicting brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease
December 10, 2018 - Study explores how schools address adolescent self-harming practices
December 10, 2018 - Pregnancy in adolescence linked to increased risks of complications in young mothers
December 10, 2018 - Risk Analysis publishes special issue on communicating about Zika virus
December 10, 2018 - Botox May Help Prevent Post-Op A-Fib
December 10, 2018 - African-American mothers rate boys higher for ADHD
December 10, 2018 - Graphic warning labels cancel out cigarettes’ appeal to young people
December 10, 2018 - Australian researchers to study gas inhalational anaesthetic and likelihood of cancer return
December 10, 2018 - Individual neurons located within the brain have implications for psychiatric diseases
December 10, 2018 - Researchers improve bariatric surgery scoring system to extend prediction time for diabetic remission
December 10, 2018 - HPV type 16 or 18 associated with cervical cancer risk in young women
December 10, 2018 - Cervical cancer risk is higher in women with positive HPV, but no cellular abnormalities
December 10, 2018 - Combo therapy not needed if low RA disease activity achieved
December 10, 2018 - Novel therapeutic targets based on biology of aging show promise for Alzheimer’s disease
December 10, 2018 - UC San Diego professor receives NCI Outstanding Investigator Award for cancer research
December 10, 2018 - Study evaluates placental mesenchymal stem cell sheets for myocardial repair and regeneration
December 10, 2018 - Blueprint Medicines Announces Updated Results from Ongoing EXPLORER Clinical Trial of Avapritinib Demonstrating Broad Clinical Activity and Significant Symptom Reductions in Patients with Systemic Mastocytosis
December 10, 2018 - Study clarifies ApoE4’s role in dementia
December 10, 2018 - Eating disorders now a top priority with Australian Government
December 10, 2018 - Neuronal activity in the brain allows prediction of risky or safe decisions
December 10, 2018 - FDA Alerts Health Care Professionals and Patients Not to Use Drug Products Intended to be Sterile from Promise Pharmacy
December 10, 2018 - Improving dementia care and treatment saves thousands of pounds in care homes
December 10, 2018 - Heroin-assisted treatment can offer benefits, reduce harms
December 10, 2018 - People covered by Michigan’s expanded Medicaid program report improvements in health, finds study
December 10, 2018 - Hazelnuts improve micronutrient levels in older adults
December 9, 2018 - History of Partner Violence Tied to Menopause Symptoms
December 9, 2018 - Clean Up Safely After a Disaster|Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
December 9, 2018 - Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl’s deadly rise, report concludes
December 9, 2018 - Deprescribing could help manage polypharmacy in older adults
December 9, 2018 - Retraction of article “Joy of cooking too much” from journal
December 9, 2018 - FDA Warns of Rare Stroke Risk With MS Drug Lemtrada (Alemtuzumab)
December 9, 2018 - Feds say heroin, fentanyl remain biggest drug threat to US
December 9, 2018 - Eliminating microglia can reverse some aspects of stress sensitization, study shows
December 9, 2018 - New genetic insight could help treat rare debilitating heart and lung condition
December 9, 2018 - MiRagen Therapeutics Announces Final Safety, Biodistribution and Clinical Efficacy Data From Phase 1 Cobomarsen Clinical Trial in Patients With Mycosis Fungoides
December 9, 2018 - Work with your doctor to weigh pros, cons of treatment options for hyperthyroidism
December 9, 2018 - CWRU researcher secures $14.6 million funding for genetic study into Alzheimer’s disease
December 9, 2018 - High intensity statin treatment and adherence could save more lives
December 9, 2018 - Surgery patients use only 1/4 of prescribed opioids, and prescription size matters
December 9, 2018 - AXT offers Phi Optics upgrade to QPI systems for inverted light microscopes
December 9, 2018 - New booklet could help improve conditions of young pupils with albinism
December 9, 2018 - Few Physicians Work in Practices That Use Telemedicine
December 9, 2018 - Older Adults and Oral Health
December 9, 2018 - Health utility values improve after septorhinoplasty
December 9, 2018 - New EU-funded project provides insight into how the brain develops
December 9, 2018 - Expanded use of tele-emergency services can help strengthen rural hospitals
December 9, 2018 - Infections in the Young May Be Tied to Risk for Mental Illness: Study
December 9, 2018 - Profile: Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
December 9, 2018 - Snoring poses greater cardiac risk to women
December 9, 2018 - Researcher takes further steps in understanding how and why cute aggression occurs
December 9, 2018 - Researchers create new light-activated tools for controlling neurons
December 9, 2018 - Spinal cord injury disrupts the body’s internal clock, study shows
December 9, 2018 - Babies recognize nested structures similar to our grammar
December 9, 2018 - UT Austin researcher receives $2.5 million CZI grant for neurodegenerative disease research
December 9, 2018 - Sleep problems found to be prevalent and increasing among college students
December 9, 2018 - Study reveals why some children are susceptible to the effects of maltreatment
Understanding AFib: Tips for a healthy life with atrial fibrillation

Understanding AFib: Tips for a healthy life with atrial fibrillation

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

While living with a serious and complex health condition such as atrial fibrillation, there are many approaches and health behaviors that can increase your quality of life.

My colleague Paul Wang, MD, director of Stanford’s Cardiac Arrhythmia Service, describes three steps AFib patients can take to improve their health: increase physical activity, eat a healthy diet, and care for your mental well-being.

“All three work together to improve your overall health,” Wang said.

Let’s break down these key healthy behaviors, plus a few more: 

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. A healthy diet emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich foods, and plant-derived fats like olive oil. Such a diet can slow down underlying problems that may have led to AFib.
  • Be physically active. Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking at least 30 minutes each day, will keep your heart as healthy as possible.
  • Take care of your own mental well-being. It is important to take time to do things that bring you joy and improve how you feel. If you have ongoing trouble with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, seek out the advice of a physician or therapist.
  • Don’t smoke. Cigarettes and other smoking devices (e.g., vaping, marijuana, etc.) can damage the blood vessels of the heart.
  • Carefully manage other medical issues. Many other conditions — such as high blood pressure and high thyroid hormone levels — if not well controlled, can worsen AFib.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine. These two compounds stimulate the heart and can make episodes of AFib more likely. Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks a day for men. Keep caffeine intake down to the equivalent of one strong cup of coffee (250 mg) per day.
  • Manage your stress levels. Stress can contribute to AFib episodes and can impair your ability to cope with the added tasks needed to deal with AFib. Yoga, tai chi, and meditation are effective ways to manage stress.
  • Get adequate sleep. Most people require at least seven hours of sleep each night to feel their best. Sleep deprivation has unfavorable effects on the body.
  • Take prescribed medications consistently and as directed. Drugs prescribed for atrial fibrillation will only work if taken consistently and as prescribed. Warfarin and other blood thinners are less effective when you miss even a single dose.

These strategies, particularly when combined with standard medical approaches to AFib, are effective and life-changing.

George H., our 71-year-old retired engineer with AFib, has taken his doctor’s advice seriously. He has reduced his alcohol intake, gets more sleep, started to improve his diet, and every day either rides his bicycle or walks. His AFib has led to many complex issues that require doctors’ decisions and he has often felt left out of the conversation. For George, there is something satisfying and encouraging about doing his own part to improve his health. Overall, his quality of life has improved.

In addition to health habits that will keep your heart as healthy as possible, we recommend learning the details about AFib that can help you better manage your own health.

Three key AFib learning goals include:

  • Learn how to assess your heart beat so that you can tell when your heart is in AFib. Being able to feel the difference between AFib and a normal heart rhythm can allow you to seek help when you really need it. Similarly, assessing how fast your heart is beating can help you make better decisions about seeking help.
  • Learn your risk of having a stroke in the next year. Knowing your stroke risk score will help inform you and your doctor of whether blood thinners are recommended.
  • Know your medications. Gain knowledge about the medications used to treat AFib. Learning a little bit about blood thinners, heart rate-lowering medications and anti-arrhythmic drugs will go a long way towards making your visits with your doctor as effective as possible.

Finally, AFib patients and their doctors should strive to make shared decisions together that consider the advantages and disadvantages of drugs and other strategies. Only by proactively pursuing health and taking part in AFib treatment decisions will patients be able to maximize their outcomes and live their lives as fully as possible.

This is the final post in the Understanding AFib series to help patients with atrial fibrillation live healthier lives. George H. is an actual patient with some details altered to protect his confidentiality.

Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, is a professor of medicine at Stanford and practices primary care internal medicine. Stafford and Stanford cardiologist Paul Wang, MD, lead an American Heart Association effort to improve stroke prevention decision-making in atrial fibrillation.

Illustration by Vinita Bharat/Fuzzy Synapse

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles