Tip #1: Make exercise a part of your life
You’ve heard it before, but it can’t be said often enough: if you want to improve your energy, strengthen your heart, and increase your longevity, you need to make exercise a part of your everyday routine. Of course, living with AFib means minding your limits, so you’ll need to moderate your workout routine with the help of sound medical advice from your doctor and a keen focus on your body’s signals.
Strenuous exercise can make an irregular heartbeat worse, but moderate exercise can bring long-term benefits, like weight loss and lower blood pressure – and that can help you ward off heart failure, which is a major risk for AFib patients. Consider a routine that balances regular, moderate aerobic exercise with stretching and strengthening activities like yoga. For more information, be sure to check out our “Exercising with AFib” article.
Tip #2: Minimize stress as much as possible
Not only is stress a common trigger for AFib, it appears to affect the severity of symptoms, too. Psychological stress, which can manifest in forms like anxiety and depression, has prompted patients to visit their doctor more often with AFib complaints. Likewise, if you’re prone to anxiety or high-stress states, even moderate AFib symptoms could feed the cycle.
Stress is personal and unique – your stress relief program should be as well. The first step is to be more observant: learn what brings on stress, where it tends to happen, and why you have such a difficult time controlling it. Then, explore your options. From innovative workouts to face-to-face therapy sessions, there are plenty of stress-relieving resources at your fingertip (and no reason to wait any longer to try them).
Tip #3: Reduce your salt intake
High-sodium lifestyles are the norm in North America, and they’re slowly chipping away at our health. It’s true you need salt to live, but when you take in too much – more than 1500 mg a day – your body’s mineral balance is thrown off, your blood pressure can go up, and your heart rhythm can suffer. Not a good combination for anyone, especially people with AFib.
One simple first step is to decrease the amount of sodium you eat, which means drastically reducing frozen, processed, or takeaway meals. Pay close attention to labels (some foods have a surprising amount of sodium) and get used to cooking with flavorful herbs and spices rather than salt. You may also want to pay more attention to your minerals: electrolyte imbalances can feed AFib, so it might be time to up your magnesium and potassium to counter the sodium you take in.