Finding a balance
Heavy drinking and AFib are a bad combination – three or more drinks a day significantly increases your risk of an episode, and for every drink on top of that, your risk climbs another 8%. If you drink moderately (two drinks a day for men, or one drink a day for women), you might be alright, but your doctor may still suggest you cut down a bit.
If you want to include alcohol in your diet without drastically raising your risk of an AFib reaction, keep these tips in mind:
Take drink-free days. Binge drinking is definitely a bad idea, but even moderate drinking every day could contribute to AFib. Experts recommend taking two or three dry days a week to relieve the stress on your liver and your heart. Is water too boring? Fill a box with a variety of herbal teas and keep it on the counter so there’s a selection of flavors to choose from, which can keep things interesting.
Pay close attention to your numbers. When you live with a heart condition, you need to pay extra close attention to your body. This means not only watching for symptoms, but also checking key levels. Since alcohol increases blood pressure, which can interfere with heart function, commit to using a blood pressure monitor when you have a drink or two. If the numbers are high, that’s a sign to switch to water.
Top up your fluids and minerals. Alcohol encourages your kidneys to draw water from your tissues and pass it out of your body. But you’re losing more than water: important minerals like sodium and potassium, crucial for proper organ function, will drain out, too. Without these electrolytes, heart function will falter, so you’ll want to top your levels up with water and nutritious food. Sports drinks can be helpful, but they can contain a good deal of sugar, so go easy.
Pass on the nightcap. Good sleep directly impacts your stress levels and the frequency and severity of AFib episodes. It follows that poor sleep can cause health problems, and alcohol can easily disrupt natural sleep patterns. An evening drink can calm you down in the moment, but it will boost your metabolism during the night, while your body tries to process the energy. That could translate into lots of tossing and turning, and more uncomfortable symptoms in the morning.
Moderation is key. Alcohol intake clearly affects your chances of experiencing AFib symptoms, so it makes good sense to take steps to reduce your drinking. Why not take the opportunity to examine your whole diet, and see what else could do with an adjustment? After making a couple of additions or subtractions, you could start to notice some pleasant changes in your energy levels and quality of life in a matter of weeks.