Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common cause of irregular heartbeat in adults. If you experience heart palpitations, fatigue, lightheadedness, chest pain or shortness of breath, you could be one of an estimated six million people suffering from AFib.
While it may not sound serious on its own, AFib can lead to a blood clot, stroke, heart failure or other serious complications. Mercy Clinic cardiologist Dr. Eric Williams has six things you should know about living life to the fullest with AFib.
- Exercise caution with exercise. Heavy exertion can trigger AFib symptoms, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. Then stay in tune with your body, and don’t overdo it.
- De-stress. Whether it’s lighting a candle, practicing yoga or keeping a journal, find something to help you feel Zen.
- Eat right. Adding nutritious foods to your diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and even lower your blood pressure. Obesity and high blood pressure are risk factors for AFib.
- Sleep tight. Sleep deprivation and sleep apnea, a disorder that causes an interruption in your breathing, can both lead to AFib. By getting enough sleep and keeping sleep apnea in check, you can help avoid AFib episodes.
- Cut out caffeine. If you notice AFib symptoms after your morning cup of Joe, you may want to switch to decaf.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Drinking more than what’s considered “in moderation” – one nightly drink for women and two for men – can trigger AFib.
Dr. Williams says people with AFib can live full, normal lives once they have their symptoms under control. It’s important to work with your physician on a customized treatment plan that will likely involve lifestyle modifications and medication.
Eric Williams, MD, is a fellowship-trained cardiologist at Mercy Clinic Heart and Vascular – Mercy Heart Hospital St. Louis and Mercy Clinic Cardiology - Rolla. To schedule an appointment in St. Louis, call 314-251-1700. For an appointment in Rolla, call 573-458-6310.