Successful treatment of atrial fibrillation is about more than medications and procedures. A healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone in AFib management because it helps naturally treat some of the underlying triggers for AFib. The best thing about a whole body approach to atrial fibrillation is that there are no bad side effects to self-care and a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is a key component of the management of atrial fibrillation. This is because being overweight or obese not only directly impacts atrial fibrillation but also increases the risk of other diseases, like high blood pressure and sleep apnea, which are both individually linked to AFib. We recommend eating a diet that is primarily plant-based and is high in vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
Limited alcohol intake
Alcohol is very irritating to the electrical conduction system of the heart. Therefore, excessive alcohol intake can worsen atrial fibrillation. We recommend either abstaining from alcohol or limiting alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men.
Coping with stress is important for overall health. In atrial fibrillation, stress and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can contribute to more frequent symptomatic AFib. Helpful options for stress management include: meditation, yoga, Thai Chi, support of friends and family, regular physical activity, healthy sleep habits and a positive attitude.
In 2012, a small study showed that cardiac specific acupuncture was as effective as amiodarone, an antiarrhythmic medication, in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation. It also showed that acupuncture had an additive effect when used in conjunction with antiarrhythmic medications. A larger scale trial is currently underway to further investigate the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture, which uses cardiac specific acupoints, to reduce AFib burden after ablation. If this trial shows that cardiac specific acupuncture effectively and safely reduces atrial fibrillation burden, acupuncture could become an important adjunct in the treatment of AFib.
Continue reading the next entry of The Scoop for important information about using shared decision making to improve treatment of atrial fibrillation.