Over the course of 70 years, the average human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times.
If you have an arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation, your heartbeat is anything but average. This condition affects your energy levels, how you move, and how you breathe.
But there are a variety of ways to cope with this condition and still live a healthy, productive life. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’ve been living with Afib for some time, you should know how to manage it.
Follow these 7 tips on how to live with Afib and get back to enjoying your life.
What Is Afib?
Afib is short for atrial fibrillation. Also called AF, it describes the most common abnormality in heart rhythm. This condition affects more than 2.7 million people in the US.
In a healthy heart, the upper and lower chamber work together to produce a normal heartbeat. When things go wrong with the electrical activity that regulates these two chambers, the speed, and rhythm of the heartbeat changes. All of this is determined by an EKG machine and usually, EKG technicians do it. Well, you can do it yourself as you don’t need a degree to become an EKG tech.
In general, these changes in speed and rhythm are what’s known as arrhythmia. The most common form of arrhythmia is Afib.
In this type of arrhythmia, the upper chamber of the heart beats very fast. Rather than a beating pattern, the pattern is more of a quiver. And this causes the lower chamber to do a lot of the work pumping blood for your body.
The biggest problem with this is that the ventricles aren’t as effective. That ineffectiveness leads to blood clots. Worst of all, blood clots that break off can cause a stroke.
There are many different types of afib. Most types of Afib can be managed with some lifestyle changes. Below, we’ll go into more detail about the 7 most important lifestyle changes you can make right away.
7 Health Tips to Help Those Living with Afib
The most important thing to do when you’re diagnosed and living with Afib is to listen to your doctor. They’ll prescribe a series of medications to help you cope with your day-to-day, and it’s important to follow that regiment.
In addition to seeing your doctor, you should start to think about trying to manage your Afib with lifestyle changes that contribute to a healthy heart and a healthier overall You. Here are some tips.
1. Control Weight
Conditions like obesity, metabolic syndrome, are linked to hypertension, which directly impacts your heart health.
It’s believed that these conditions also make it difficult for your heart to empty, which adds to the pressure on your lower chamber which we’ve already discussed.
Being overweight can make it more likely for Afib to return, even after getting a surgical procedure. This is why controlling your weight through diet and exercise is extremely important when you have Afib.
2. Change Your Diet
Diet is the first place you should look to control your weight and live healthier. But people with Afib require specific dietary changes. For example, living with Afib means avoiding saturated fat and trans fat, and eating healthier fats instead.
You should incorporate more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains into your diet while also starting to limit your salt intake as it has an influence over your blood pressure and your cholesterol.
You should also limit both caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine, on the one hand, makes your heartbeat after. Alcohol, on the other hand, is blood thinner that can make you bleed too much – especially if you’re already taking blood thinners.
Perhaps one of the most important and hardest things to remember is to limit your vitamin K intake. Vitamin k is found in spinach, broccoli, and lettuce. Eating too much of this can cause your blood to clot and affect medicines such as Coumadin.
3. Increase Physical Activity
Physical activity helps you control your weight, improve your sleep, reduce your stress, and make your heart stronger.
However, extreme physical activity isn’t recommended for people living with Afib. Too much intense physical activity can raise the risk of Afib.
Talk to your doctor about an appropriate physical activity plan for you. And if your heart does go out of rhythm while working out, it’s advised that you stop and rest.
4. Control Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Afib is sometimes caused by blood pressure, cholesterol, and an overactive thyroid. To treat Afib of this type, get to the root of it. Your doctor can prescribe medication to manage these conditions but you can also manage it with a healthy diet like the one we talked about above.
5. Get Your Rest
A relatively easy way to live a healthier lifestyle when you have Afib is to get a good rest every night. Adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep to allow their bodies to do its healing and recharge from the day.
6. Don’t Smoke
This should go without saying but cigarette smoking is as bad for your heart as it is for your lungs. Not only that but nicotine is a stimulant. This is how smoking increases your heart rate and can lead to Afib events.
Try quitting smoking with over-the-counter smoking cessation patches and gums. If those aren’t working for you, there are other medications and therapies your doctor can recommend.
7. Control Stress
Chronic stress directly impacts your overall cardiovascular health. And if you have a condition like an Afib, those impacts are amplified.
Try managing your stress with things like massage, deep breathing, and of course, exercise. You might also consider trying meditation or yoga. And if your stress is overwhelming, it might be time to seek support from a therapist.
Improve Your Lifestyle For Better Health
Living with Afib is absolutely do-able. But to live with Afib and live healthily, you’ll need to make some lifestyle changes. These include changing your diet, incorporating exercise into your life, and reducing your level of stress.
All of these changes will contribute to better overall health. For more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, be sure to check out our health section.