6 Things to Avoid Eating (and Drinking) with Arrhythmia

Normally, your heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute. Eating specific foods or drinking certain beverages can raise your heart rate to above 100, creating a feeling that your heart is fluttering, racing or skipping a beat.

If it happens occasionally, it’s likely nothing to worry about. If you have a history of heart problems or if you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or arrhythmia, you should take it seriously. An episode of irregular heartbeats could potentially lead to complications like a blood clot or stroke.

Dr. Eric Williams with Mercy Clinic Cardiology has six things that can aggravate arrhythmia.

  1. Too much caffeine. One or two cups of coffee a day is probably fine. There are even studies that show there are health benefits of caffeine. Don’t overdo it, though – too much caffeine can raise your blood pressure and your heart rate. Watch out for energy drinks that have mega doses of the stimulant.

  2. Alcohol. Heavy drinking can cause damage to your heart cells and cause extra heartbeats. The good news is that your heart may return to normal if you stop drinking. If having a glass of wine with dinner is part of your everyday routine, it’s okay to continue as long as it’s not causing palpitations.

  3. Sodium. The average American eats an excessive amount of sodium, which can raise your blood pressure, cause structural changes in your blood vessels and make you more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. Foods like deli meats, soup and pizza have high levels of sodium.

  4. Tyramine. Tyramine is an amino acid that can affect blood pressure. Aged cheese like parmesan and gorgonzola, soy sauce, sauerkraut and salami are full of tyramine.

  5. Herbal supplements. Dr. Williams encourages his arrhythmia patients to discontinue using any herbal supplements because they may contain stimulants or other ingredients that are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Some supplements may also have negative interactions with heart medications.

  6. Oversized portions. Eating large meals can lead to heartburn, which can lead to atrial fibrillation. In general, it’s better to eat smaller portions throughout the day instead of three big meals.

Your body may react differently than someone else’s, so it’s a good idea to keep track of your own triggers.

Modifying what you eat and drink might not be enough to fully prevent atrial fibrillation, but it can help lower your risk. Eating a heart healthy diet can also prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even diabetes. Talk to your Mercy doctor to develop a strategy that will keep your heart beating at the right pace for you.

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.