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Guide to Heart-Healthy, Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Diet

Guide to Heart-Healthy, Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Diet

atrial fibrillation

Introduction

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is observed in approximately 2.7 million Americans. This it-self identifies it to be a very common abnormality of heart rhythm in the United States (US). This condition can be improved by proper treatment and kept in control with the guidance of the physician or doctor.

This condition is not serious, but it can cause other harmful problems like chronic fatigue, congestive heart failure, and stroke.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation is caused by a disruption in the electrical system of the heart. This electrical system guides the heart when to contract and relax. It is also termed as Arrhythmias or Dysrhythmias, as the beating of the heart happens in an abnormal rhythm way. When the electrical signals are normal, the beating of the four chambers of the heart occurs in a proper and stable pattern. This is termed as “Sinus Rhythm.”

In Atrial Fibrillation, the heartbeat is irregular. In this case, the impulses get very fast i.e. approximately 300 beats per minute (bpm).

The top chambers of the heart i.e. the atria they tremble or fibrillate. The atrial tend to contract at a rapid rate and irregular. Therefore the pumping of the blood is not happening appropriately. A few times the fast atrial fibrillation passes to the ventricles and results in the ventricles beating at a rapid and uneven rhythm. The speed of ventricles is slow as compared to the speed of atria. It is in the range of 120 to 160 beats per minute (bpm).

This results in the lower chambers of the heart such as ventricles to irregularly beat.

Factors causing Atrial Fibrillation includes

  • Hypertension
  • Lately done with heart surgery
  • A disease affecting the valves (one or more)
  • Myocarditis (Inflammation of the muscles of the heart) or Pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining).
  • Heart Defect (Congenital Heart Disease): Present since the time of birth.
  • Thyroid Gland is over-active.
  • Lung Disease i.e. Acute or Chronic.
  • Infections are related to the virus.
  • Aging.
  • Caffeine, Alcohol or Tobacco

To decrease the harm of atrial fibrillation, important to maintain a healthy lifestyle that is heart-friendly. Important to also take medications on time, providing appropriate treatment and managing the conditions, this will help in decreasing the consequences of atrial fibrillation.

The risks for Atrial Fibrillation includes

Stroke, Heart Failure, Long-term fatigue, Excess problems in the heart rhythm and the supply of blood is not constant.

Ways to reduce the risk for Atrial Fibrillation

workouts for heart

  • Follow a proper work-out regime/physical activity.
  • Important to consume a heart-friendly diet.
  • Important to control and monitor your blood pressure.
  • Avoid excess intake of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Avoid/Quit Smoking.
  • Important to control the cholesterol level
  • To maintain the weight, Body Mass Index and other parameters.

Healthy Lifestyle and Foods

Atrial fibrillation can be managed when we follow a healthy diet. Important to work on the improvement of eating habits that helps reduce the risk for atrial fibrillation along with the decrease in the progress of the disease.

Few heart-healthy foods help you balance control on the rhythm of the heart. They are:

  • Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, flax-seeds and more.
  • Green-Leafy Vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, and other vegetables. Vegetables and Fruits are high in Vitamins, Minerals, and Anti-oxidants.
  • Increase in the intake of Fiber and Protein.
  • Certain foods can aggravate heart conditions and can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. Like foods high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. Eating excess of unhealthy foods increases the risk of heart attacks too.

Foods to avoid

Alcohol

As per the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), moderate drinkers are also at a risk for atrial fibrillation, in individuals with heart conditions or diabetes. Many studies have depicted that consumption of alcohol can activate an event/incident of atrial fibrillation if it has had an attack of paroxysmal Atrial fibrillation. Risky to binge-drink also. Alcohol results in a drop in blood sugars. Alcohol can also cause a harmful reaction if certain diabetic medications are taken.

Caffeine

It has been said for a long time to avoid caffeine products for people with atrial fibrillation. The caffeine products contain coffee, tea, soda and more. Caffeine is consumed in excess amounts results in increased heart rate and blood pressure.

None of the clinical-based studies can prove a link between the intake of caffeine and the event/incident of atrial fibrillation. Even in one of the Danish Studies, there was no link present between the consumption of caffeine and atrial fibrillation. There was one more study conducted on the dogs which depicted that the activation of an atrial fibrillation episode was decreased in animals to whom caffeine was given.

As a result, there is no harm in consuming 1 cup of any caffeine-containing drinks.

Fat

Important to consume right for the entire body to avoid the risk of Atrial Fibrillation. There is an increased risk for atrial fibrillation if obese or hypertension.

To reduce weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and other medical conditions, it is important to restrict the intake of calories, saturated and trans-fats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. A heart specialist may inform you to restrict certain kinds of fats.

Avoid the intake of trans-fats. This is considered to be harmful fats for health. It is present in margarine, foods cooked with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, some type of crackers and cookie, potato chips, doughnuts, and fried foods.

Salt Intake

The risk for hypertension increases with an increased intake of salt. The decrease in the intake of Sodium helps to balance the heart health and decrease the risk for Atrial Fibrillation. There is a lot of preservative as salt used in various frozen and processed foods. Important to read the labels and consume more fresh foods and foods that are less in sodium or no salt present in that. Without any sodium being added, substitutes for salt, fresh herbs and spices can maintain the flavor of the food. Target to consume 1,500 mg of Sodium every-day.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is present in foods like

Vegetables such as spinach and kale, cauliflower, parsley, green tea and more. Important to avoid foods with high Vitamin K when consuming a blood thinner i.e. warfarin (Coumadin). This medicine helps avoid blood clots. Important to maintain the intake of Vitamin K daily.

See Also

  • The intake of Vitamin K varies from person to person, depending on age.
  • Between the age of 14 and 18 years, important to consume 75 micrograms per day.
  • Above 19 years of age, important to consume 120 mcg/day of Vitamin K.
  • Females above the age of 19 years should avoid consuming greater than 90 mcg per day, even though pregnant or nursing.

If the consumption of Vitamin K is still on, do have a conversation with the physician about switching to a non-vitamin k oral anticoagulant (NOAC), so these interactions should not be an issue. Examples of NOAC’s are Dabigatran (Pradaxa), Rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and Apixaban (Eliquis).

Gluten

It is a kind of protein present in wheat, rye, and barley. It is in products like bread, pasta, condiments, and several packaged foods. If an individual is gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat, it results in inflammation of the body. This inflammation affects the vagus nerve. This nerve has a very big impact on the heart and increases the risk of atrial fibrillation. If gluten allergies or insensitivity is increasing the risk for atrial fibrillation, important to reduce the intake of gluten products to keep atrial fibrillation under control.

Grapefruit

Consumption of grapefruit may not be a great idea if suffering from atrial fibrillation. Grapefruit juice consists of a strong chemical termed as naringenin. This strong chemical can affect the efficiency of drugs for arrhythmias such as amiodarone (Cordarone) and dofetilide (Tikosyn). The grapefruit juice also affects the way how other medicines/drugs which are absorbed via intestine from the blood.

Magnesium

Few studies depict that decreased levels of Magnesium create a negative impact on the rhythm of the heart. It is very simple to get magnesium from the diet by consuming some foods such as:

Nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter, spinach, avocados, whole grains, yogurt.

Potassium

Excess intake of sodium could lead to low levels of potassium. Potassium is majorly for the health of the heart as it helps the muscles to work effectively. Potassium levels could be due to irregular diet or from consuming such medicines such as diuretics. Low levels of potassium cause an increase in arrhythmias. Excess intake of potassium could also have a negative impact on the medicines for heart, so before adding to the diet do have a conversation with the physician.

Sources for potassium: coconut, coconut water, banana and more.

Whole Grain Cereals

Consuming whole grains and dietary fiber are known to reduce CVD morbidity and mortality. Whole grains also contain good amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, anti-oxidant that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. It has also been seen that increased intake of whole grains results in a decreased risk of death due to diseases caused by inflammation. Atrial fibrillation is known to cause inflammation and oxidative stress, and consumption of whole-grain cereals and fiber helps decrease the risk of arrhythmias. Whole grains also consist of magnesium which is an add on benefit in the management of fast atrial fibrillation.

It is also seen that a good quantity of fish which contains omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk for heart disease, majorly by preventing heart arrhythmias and ventricular fibrillation. The “anti-arrhythmic effects of omega-3 fatty acids could be mediated through their regulation of the calcium channel, eicosanoid metabolism, inflammation, and cardiac muscle metabolism.” In one of the studies, it was seen that the consumption of dark fish and omega-3 intake of fatty acids (PUFA) coming from fish or fish-oil supplements did not show any link with decreased atrial fibrillation.

Illegal Substances

Various substances such as cocaine and marijuana are known as stimulants. These medications can irritate the heart, irregular rhythms of the heart like atrial fibrillation. Important to avoid the usage of illegal substances as mentioned above.

Eating Appropriate for Atrial Fibrillation

  • To control the symptoms and complications for atrial fibrillation, it is important to consume some specific food and nutrients. Do follow the below-given guidance when trying to choose what to consume:
  • Consume whole-grain cereals, pulses, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Include these for a healthy breakfast. For example could include a heavy breakfast such as unsweetened oatmeal with berries, chia seeds, nuts, and low-fat Greek yogurt. Decrease the intake of salt and sodium. Do not consume greater than 2400 mg per day.
  • Restrict the intake of full-fat dairy products that consist of saturated fats.
  • Target for 50 percent “of produce at each meal” to help in the nourishment of the body and gives fiber and satiety.
  • Control the portion sizes. Avoid excess intake of portions to keep the control of calories. If possible do weigh the food on a weighing scale to keep a count on the calories.
  • Avoid foods that contain a lot of fried and sugary foods.
  • Avoid excess intake of alcohol or caffeine.
  • Important to also keep into consideration the essential vitamins and minerals in the diet.
  • Avoid smoking as it contains nicotine which is a stimulant for heart and can increase the risk for atrial fibrillation. Smoking cigarettes is also considered a factor for coronary artery disease.
  • Consume protein in each meal like low-fat milk and milk products, eggs, lean meats, pulses, nuts and seeds, soya and products).
  • Consume food intake of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat fats that are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (canola, peanuts, soybean, olive, rice bran oil).

Conclusion

To conclude follow healthy Eating Behaviours by following a time routine for the meals and once you are satisfied, stop consuming it. Minimize things like keeping your-self hungry, avoid long gaps between the meals, avoid skipping any meals and avoid eating late at night to avoid or restrict atrial fibrillation.

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