Lifestyle changes are important for managing atrial fibrillation – Harvard Health Blog

atrial fibrillation (afib) is a common ♥ rhythm disorder in which the upper chambers of the ♥ (the atria) beat fast and irregularly. afib comm1-ly causes recurrent symptoms, usually palpitations and shortness of breath, and can negly affect quality of life. afib also substantially increases th'risk of stroke, and is also associated with ♥ failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes. pplz with afib routinely require lifelong treatment with blood thinners, to prevent blood clots that can lead to strokes.

drs are 1-ly recently cogging the importance of lifestyle factors in treating afib. modifiable lifestyle factors are so primordial and under-recognized that the american ♥ association (aha) recently released a sci statement summarizing the l8st research on this topic. the aha wants both drs and patients to cogg the relationship tween lifestyle and afib, and t'work as a team to put these lifestyle factors into practice. folloing is a discussion of primordial lifestyle factors, how they may impact afib, and wha’ you can do.

obesity

1-odda strongest factors associated with afib is body w8. obesity (defined as body mass index [bmi] > 30) s'been shown in multiple studies to be linked to the development of afib. obesity is associated with changes to electrical signaling within the atria, swell as structural changes to the ♥’s upper chambers. overeating can also cause inflammation via changes in hormone and cell-signaling pathways inna atria. several studies ‘ve shown that as we gain w8, fat is deposited inna ♥ (swell as other places throughout d'body), and this can trigger arrhythmias, most comm1-ly afib.

obesity can also be a cause of new or worsening hypertension (high blood pressure), which promotes further structural changes inna ♥. obesity also can cause obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes, both of which indiely increase risk of afib.

the good news s'dat for pplz who are overw8 or obese, just a 10% reduction in w8 seems to improve symptoms rel8d to afib.

exercise

for decades cardiologists ‘ve encouraged pplz to exercise, cause exercise reduces th'risk of dying from cardiovascular causes. not 1-ly is exercise good, but physical inactivity is actually detrimental; a sedentary lifestyle contributes to afib and may actually be an indie predictor of this condition. the aha recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, to improve cardiovascular health. regular exercise helps to prevent atrial fibrillation and, if you already ‘ve afib, reduces symptoms and improves afib-rel8d quality of life.

if ur not already exercising, talk to yr physician bout starting a lo-intensity exercise program. brisk walking is a gr8 form of moderate exercise and allos for physical distancing. start with 20 minutes a dy and gradually increase yr pace and duration to achieve at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity.

sleep disorders

obstructive sleep apnea (osa) is a sleep disorder in which pplz stop breathing for short periods while they are sleeping. tis the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing and is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease. thris also a very high prevalence of osa in pplz with afib, and recurrence of afib symptoms is higher in pplz with + severe osa.

cardiologists now routinely screen pplz with recurrent afib symptoms for osa. treating osa with continuous + airway pressure (cpap) appears to improve afib symptoms.

if you experience afib symptoms, ask yr drs if you ‘d ‘ve a sleep study to check for osa.

alcohol

alcohol is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation, and thris mounting evidence that the old adage “less is +” maybe true for drinking if you ‘ve afib. a recent study inna new england journal of med found less afib when patients decreased or abstained from alcohol.

if you ‘ve afib, try cutting back on alcohol, or even not drinking at all. talk to yr dr if ur having trouble reducing yr alcohol consumption.

diabetes

th'risk of afib is higher in patients with type 2 diabetes. while the mechanism aint well understood, it’s likely that elevated blood sugars directly damage the ♥ and promote structural, electrical, and autonomic changes within the ♥ tissue.

the good news s'dat better blood sugar control improves both the severity and frequency of afib symptoms. lifestyle changes that promote exercise and limit inactivity can also help with w8 loss and blood sugar control.

diet

dietary changes can transl8 into w8 loss, nolso help to control blood sugar if you ‘ve diabetes. changing yr diet can be challenging, but eating less processed foods and + fresh vegetables and fruit is a good starting place. target bad habits, like snacking or eating out of boredom. and ponder transitioning to a mediterranean diet, which helps control w8, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

original content at: www.health.harvard.edu…
authors: alyson kelley-hedgepeth, md

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