How to Reduce Your Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Sunrise Senior Living  |  August 12, 2016
Making a few lifestyle adjustments can help reduce your risk of AFib.
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Making a few lifestyle adjustments can help reduce your risk of AFib.

As Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month approaches, now's the perfect time to be proactive about your health. While AFib can be caused by existing heart disease and clogged arteries, it can also occur in people who live healthy lives but often feel stressed or fatigued. As you age, your risk of developing AFib increases, according to StopAFib.org.

To reduce your risk of experiencing signs and symptoms of AFib that often lead to stroke or heart failure, consider these prevention tips to lead a healthy lifestyle:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet
Eating well doesn't only help you maintain your weight, it also keeps your heart healthy and reduces your risk of certain chronic conditions such as AFib. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggested showing your heart some love by following a diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. Start eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.

2. Quit smoking
If you are a smoker, it's time to break the habit. Smoking tobacco is bad for your heart health in so many ways, and a population-based study led researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands actually found that cigarette smoking was linked to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Smoking also increases risk of other health conditions, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma and lung cancer.

3. Exercise on a regular basis
By combining a regular exercise with a healthy, nutritious diet, you can curb obesity and reduce your risk of developing AFib. The American Heart Association suggests spending at least 150 minutes a week performing moderately-intense aerobic activity combined with two days dedicated to strength-training exercises. Just aim to get physical 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Give yourself the weekend to relax and start back up again on Monday morning.

4. Manage your high blood pressure
High blood pressure levels can lead to AFib, Although gender, race or age are also factors. However, it's an easily-manageable condition!  Just eat a healthy diet, stay physically active, avoid smoking and drinking excess alcohol, and learn how to manage your stress. All it takes is a little lifestyle adjustment – these simple changes can help lower your blood pressure, ultimately reducing your risk of developing AFib.

5. Control your cholesterol levels
Just like high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease and AFib. Work with your doctor to learn how you can bring these levels down and maintain them. Simple lifestyle changes can control these levels, but it's especially important to watch what you're eating – knowing the difference between good and bad fats is key. The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee suggested eating between 25 and 35 percent of your daily fats from healthy sources, such as fish and nuts. Stay away from trans and saturated fats and your heart and overall well-being will be in great condition.

6. Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
Because alcohol is loaded with empty calories, drinking too much of it can increase your blood pressure. As for caffeine, it's a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can even affect the rate at which your heart beats. Both of these beverages can ultimately increase your risk of AFib, so do you best to cut back. Drink alcohol in moderation. And consider a healthier alternative for energy in the morning besides coffee – green tea makes an excellent choice.