Can You Lead A Normal Life With Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)?
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is a type of cardiac arrhythmia that has multifactorial causes. In general, atrial fibrillation occurs when the anatomical structure of the heart changes until the part of the heart other than the "sinus node", emit electrical impulses distributed to the atria and ventricular muscles of the heart to start beating.
When this happens, the atrial space of the heart will contract and beat at a rate of over 300 and irregular. The risk factors of atrial fibrillation may include:
- Age over 60 years
- High blood pressure
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Thyroid disease
- Alcohol or stimulants
- Heart failure
When you experience atrial fibrillation, you will begin to experience symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and sweating excessively.
The diagnosis of atrial fibrillation will be made by a doctor using an electrocardiogram (ECG) and other imaging techniques including an echocardiogram and chest x-ray to identify the causes and complications of atrial fibrillation.
There are several treatments for atrial fibrillation such as medications and cardioversion to restore irregular heartbeat to a normal rhythm. Sometimes, ablation treatment may be reasonable for selected patients. After this treatment is given, patients will usually start with a blood thinner known as anticoagulants and need to be monitored regularly at the health clinic.
Can atrial fibrillation patients live a healthy life? Follow this article to learn more about healthy living tips for atrial fibrillation patients.
Tips for Healthy Living With Atrial Fibrillation
1. Dietary Choices
Most patients who undergo atrial fibrillation treatment will be given lifelong blood thinning treatment known as anticoagulants. One of the examples of many anticoagulants available is known as warfarin. Warfarin works to prevent blood clotting in the heart chambers due to atrial fibrillation. The blood clot formed can cause serious complications such as stroke and vascular disease.
For patients taking warfarin, you will usually be advised by your doctor to reduce your intake of foods that are high in vitamin K. This is because vitamin K is important to produce a protein that works to prevent bleeding. The function of Vitamin K is the opposite to the mechanism of warfarin.
However, this does not mean that you are not allowed to take foods that contain vitamin K at all, but should limit the intake of those foods. Foods that rich in vitamin K are as follows;
- Leafy vegetables such as mustard and spinach
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes
- Fruits such as bananas, kiwi and avocado
- Vitamin K supplements
Other than that, you should also avoid high cholesterol foods such as fried and greasy foods. These kinds of food can increase your risk of getting hypertension and heart attack. Salt should also be restricted in the daily diet to control high blood pressure at normal levels.
Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine as it can be a trigger to episodes of atrial fibrillation. In addition, avoiding smoking because nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can be triggers and further affect your atrial fibrillation.
2. Exercise is The Key to A Healthy Lifestyle
Proper exercise is very important for your health. Before starting your exercise routine, please consult your doctor for advice on choosing a suitable exercise according to the severity of atrial fibrillation, and your body’s health condition.
Exercise is vital for the following purposes;
- Lose weight to reduce the risk of heart attack.
- Helps control your emotions and feelings
- Rearrange circadian rhythms
For some patients who receive treatment to reduce the pulse rate, they may not feel an increase in pulse rate during and after exercise. If this happens to you, it indicates that your treatment is efficient.
3. Blood Thinners
Blood thinners or often known as warfarin can cause several complications if the patient does not follow the guidelines prescribed by the doctor. There are some drugs that can affect the mechanism of blood thinners. They may include antibiotics and multivitamins.
When taking antibiotics or multivitamin medications, please consult your doctor first to adjust the dose of warfarin so that it does not cause any bleeding or blood clotting in your heart chamber.
Traditional medicines containing herbal products should be avoided as it can affect the efficacy of blood thinners. Consult a doctor before taking any medication other than those prescribed at a hospital or clinic.
4. Traveling with Atrial Fibrillation
Some precautionary measures should be taken before you decide to travel especially to distant countries.
- Bring enough medication with you during the trip. Take it together in 2 different bags to avoid losing medicines.
- Bring along your health documents regarding atrial fibrillation to avoid issues especially when passing through the security or in case you need to get any emergency treatment.
- Talk to your doctor first and get proper advice before traveling.
- You still need to monitor your blood-thinning rate while traveling. Get a doctor's opinion to learn more about self-monitoring.
5. Take Care of Your Mental and Emotional Health
Although the triggers of atrial fibrillation are still on research, 54% of patients record that stress can be the main triggers of atrial fibrillation. You can follow the steps below to reduce your stress levels:
- Understand your body's health condition - First, you need to understand what atrial fibrillation actually is and its symptoms. By understanding the state of your body, you will be more aware of the changes that occur.
- Express your feelings with your loved ones - You can also talk to other atrial fibrillation patients at the clinic or hospital.
- Calm your mind by doing activities such as meditation and yoga to relieve the stress.
Atrial fibrillation is a type of tachyarrhythmia that needs to be treated to prevent dangerous complications such as stroke, and vascular diseases of legs and arms. Common symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Treatment of atrial fibrillation includes taking medications to restore heart rhythm or increase heart rate. In addition, cardioversion and ablation treatment can also be used according to the suitability of the time and the patient respectively. Consult a doctor to know more about the treatment options for atrial fibrillation.
Continuing life with atrial fibrillation may not be easy, but there are ways to keep you healthy while not worsening your heart condition. Some of the ways are healthy eating, proper exercise, meditation and yoga to reduce life stress.
*The free doctor consult initiative is supported and fully funded by DoctorOnCall