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10 Tips to Live Better With Atrial Fibrillation

Your care team knows only what you tell them. They will want to know how you are feeling to better tailor your treatment. Are you limiting certain activities for fear that it might make your AFib worse?

What can or can’t you do because of how you are feeling?

Many people with AFib also have heart failure. Ask about how to pace yourself and when to report in.

AFib can put you at up to five times greater risk of stroke. Your doctor is in the best position to calculate your risk. Most people with AFib need to take a prescription blood thinner to prevent clots from forming, but some need only aspirin.

Medications are an important part of managing AFib, your heart rate and the risk of stroke. But medications work only if you take them the right way. Always tell your health care provider about any side effects, and don’t stop taking or make changes to your medications without consulting your health care provider.

Over time, AFib can change the shape and size of the heart and how electrical signals are communicated. Medications can help regulate AFib, but they sometimes need to be changed or the dosage may need to be adjusted. Therapies such as cardioversion to try to “kick” the heart into a normal rhythm or ablation may be considered at a certain point if medications alone are not working well for your symptoms.

These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid disorders diabetes and heart failure. Ask your provider about sleep apnea because many people with AFib also have this sleep disorder. Both need to be addressed.

It’s very important to be mindful about the types of foods fueling your body. Talk with your health care team about how to adopt a healthy eating planthat is low in fat and salt. Ask whether consulting a dietitian would be helpful. Keep in mind that alcohol, caffeine and smoking can trigger episodes of AFib.

Studies have shown that losing weight, if needed, can help ease symptoms and episodes of AFib in some people. It may even reduce the amount of medication you need to take.

Talk with your health care team about what exercise routine is best for you, including the type and frequency of activity. Moving your body also helps boost feel-good hormones and tends to set you on the right path to make healthy food choices. In fact, studies show that people with AFib who exercise are better able to manage their condition and go about usual activities than those who are not active.

Some people with AFib say they are wary of exercising for fear that it will make their condition worse. While it may not be a good idea to take part in overly vigorous workouts, strengthening your heart is important, so find time to talk with your health care team about what’s the best choice for you.

Excessive worry and intense bouts of anger or anxiety can make AFib worse due to faster heart rates. Of course, the onset of symptoms themselves can be fairly anxiety provoking.

Try to find ways to lower stress. For example, go for a walk, listen to music, exercise, or find ways to better manage your time. Research has shown that for some people with AFib, yoga helps them feel better and lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety/depression scores.

Don’t let AFib define you. Continue or pursue new hobbies, and participate in community or faith-based activities. Many people say doing so helps them to cope and keep a positive attitude.

Other people may not understand how AFib makes you feel or affects your ability to do certain things or what to do to help. Try to anticipate your needs ahead of time so you know what might be most helpful if friends and family ask what they can do.

Consider bringing someone to your medical appointment to help you remember what was said and who can think of questions to ask, walk with a buddy for motivation to exercise or reach out to other people with AFib for support.
  • Last Edited 09/30/2016

Living CardioSmart

Roxanne Watson is CardioSmart