If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, suffer from rapid or irregular heartbeat, have chest pain or feel anxious (especially at night), consider these recommendations.
Though all of these recommendations should be helpful and safe for almost everyone, be sure to consult with your physician before trying them. If you have not already seen a physician, don’t wait; these symptoms may be indications of more serious conditions.
11 Recommendations to Help Prevent An Atrial Fibrillation Episode
1. Eliminate potential triggers.
Alcohol, caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate), and any stimulating herbs (ephedra, ginko biloba, ginseng, guarana, horny goat weed, etc.) are all potential triggers for afibbers. Try eliminating these triggers to see if you notice a reduction in the number of your episodes.
2. Check for side effects of any prescription medications you’re taking.
Some prescription medications can be potential triggers. For example, asthma inhalers can trigger episodes for some people. If this is the case for you, talk to your doctor about alternative medications. Also, check for stimulants in any over-the-counter drugs you’re taking such as pseudoephedrine (brand names Sudafed, SudoGest, Wal-Phed, Rugby, and Suphedrine).
3. Reduce sodium.
This is difficult since almost all packaged foods contain added sodium. Read the labels. Intake should be less than 2400 mg per day. Sodium depletes potassium which is essential for the heart – and afibbers (see below). Also, replace table salt with healthier pink himalayan salt. This type of salt tastes better than table salt and is rich in minerals! This is the pink salt I use and highly recommend:
4. Increase intake of potassium.
The recommended daily allowance for potassium is 4,700mg. It’s even higher for nursing women who are recommended to get 5,100mg per day. Afibbers can be especially vulnerable to episodes if they have low potassium levels. Try to get as much potassium as you can from foods. Avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, coconut water, kefir or yogurt, and bananas are all rich sources of potassium. Low-sodium V8 juice is even a decent option. Just one 8 ounce serving has a whopping 900mg of potassium and only 50 calories. Here is a list of foods with the most potassium:
- Avocado – 1068mg (1 whole)
- Sweet Potato – 952mg (1 medium)
- Acorn Squash – 899mg (1 cup)
- Spinach – 839mg (1 cup)
- Dried Apricots – 755mg (1/2 cup)
- Coconut Water – 600mg (1 cup)
- Kefir or Yogurt – 579mg (1 cup)
- White Beans – 502mg (1/2 cup)
- Mushrooms – 428mg (1 cup)
- Banana – 422mg (1 large)
If you can’t get enough potassium from foods to meet your minimum daily requirements, supplements can help. I supplement with potassium gluconate powder every day. I use NOW gluconate powder. It has 270mg of potassium per 1/2 teaspoon. It mixes easily with any liquid and you can barely taste it (I take it with water).
5. Increase intake of magnesium (this is critical for afibbers).
Magnesium deficiency is very common among afibbers. In fact, most afibbers are deficient in magnesium. The EXA test is the most accurate way to know for sure if you’re deficient. The best food sources include dark green, leafy vegetables and nuts, whole grains, and fruits. Here are foods with the most magnesium:
- Spinach – 157mg (1 cup)
- Chard – 154mg (1 cup)
- Dark Chocolate – 95mg (1 square) – afibbers eat with caution
- Pumpkin Seeds – 92mg (1/8 cup)
- Almonds – 80mg (1 ounce)
- Black Beans – 60mg (1/2 cup)
- Avocado – 58mg (1 medium)
- Kefir or Yogurt – 50mg (1 cup)
- Figs – 50mg (1/2 cup)
- Banana – 32mg (1 medium)
The challenge with magnesium is that it can take several months of consistent high intake of magnesium to increase your levels. You simply can’t eat enough high magnesium foods to effectively boost your levels. Magnesium supplementation is almost always necessary. I take ReMag magnesium liquid. It is a highly concentrated and highly absorbable magnesium chloride supplement. You get 150mg per 1/2 teaspoon serving. I try to aim for 3-4 servings per day (450-600mg per day).
The other magnesium supplement I use in conjunction with ReMag is Ease transdermal magnesium spray. Some argue that bypassing the digestive system and applying a magnesium spray is the most effective way to supplement with magnesium. A lot of people cannot tolerate a high intake of oral magnesium supplements as they can have a laxative effect. By using a spray you can get a large amount of magnesium without the potential side effects of loose stools and diarrhea.
I use Ease because it’s a high quality supplement that absorbs very quickly without leaving a white residue on your skin that is common with other spray products. You get about 25mg of magnesium per spray so four sprays on your skin will give you 100mg of magnesium.
Visit my magnesium for atrial fibrillation page for more information on this topic.
6. Take a good, low-dose multi-vitamin (more is not always better).
Again, you should always try to get your vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet but for most of us we’re going to need a multi-vitamin to cover our bases. I take the multivitamin, ProThera VitaPrime.
7. Experiment with other helpful supplements.
We’re all different; what works for me may not work for you. Many afibbers take a variety of “heart healthy” supplements such as taurine powder like this one:
Another popular supplement among afibbers is CoQ10. I personally take 200mg a day of Life Extension’s Super Ubiquinol CoQ10.
L-Carnitine Powder is yet another favorite.
If you haven’t noticed, I take mostly powder and liquid supplements. I do that for several reasons. One, they are always the least expensive. Two, they are the most pure form as you don’t have a bunch of other ingredients included. Three, you can control exactly how much you want in each serving. Four, you can mix them in just about anything – water, juice, smoothies, protein shakes, etc. Five, they are usually more readily absorbed than tablets or capsules.
8. Eat a heart healthy diet.
Simply put, eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. However, if you’re reading this you’re probably looking for specifics. There are varying opinions on what is the best diet for people with atrial fibrillation but one diet I keep hearing about is the Paleo Diet. I’ve never tried it myself but I’ve heard from afibbers that swear by it. The book, “Paleo for Beginners: Essentials to Get Started,” might be a good start.
The diet I read about once and tried to follow for a while was the Zone diet. Everything I read about it makes sense and it’s not nearly as restrictive as other diets. I’d start with the book, “Enter the Zone: A Dietary Road Map to Lose Weight Permanently.”
Finally, the Mediterranean diet is very popular among afibbers. I’d start with the book, “The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners.”
9. Get some exercise.
The good news for those afibbers that don’t like to exercise is that excessive exercise is NOT good. In fact there are studies now that show excessive exercise such as training and running in a marathon can contribute to afib! I was an exercise freak throughout my 20’s. I would lift weights for 30-45 minutes every day and then run (at full sprint speed) for 20-30 minutes afterwards. It’s not surprising I had my first afib episode when I was only 33.
Needless to say, since being diagnosed with afib in 2006, I only power walk now for 30 minutes every day. I also do some light stretching and occasional light lifting. I don’t even think you can call it “lifting” as I only use my body weight or I’ll use my TheraBand resistance bands.
We all need exercise – even afibbers – but the key is moderation! If you have afib and you are a daily runner or heavy weight lifter, it would be a good idea to throttle back. You’re only making your condition worse over the long-term.
10. Drink plenty of water.
Dehydration can contribute to atrial fibrillation. Afibbers are particularly vulnerable to afib episodes in the summer heat. There’s all kinds of theories on how much water you should drink. Some say the traditional 8 glasses a day is enough (64oz). Others say drink half your body weight so if you weigh 175 lbs. you should drink roughly 88oz a day. I personally aim for a minimum of 64oz a day and usually no more than half my body weight.
I always mix my ReMag (see above) with my water so I can kill two birds with one stone; I get my water intake and my magnesium supplementation.
11. Tackle sleep issues.
Not everyone with sleep apnea has atrial fibrillation but most people with afib have sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea can dramatically reduce the number of afib episodes you have. If you have afib, especially if you are overweight, you would do yourself a huge favor to have a sleep study done to determine if you have sleep apnea.
Lack of sleep over an extended period of time can also contribute to afib episodes. Prior to my successful ablation, I usually had my episodes after a string of days with very little sleep. And while I don’t battle afib episodes now, I do battle PVCs and PACs occasionally. They are always the worst after a few days of very little sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, make it a priority to do so!
These are the most important things you can do to help prevent afib episodes. If you address each one of these, you’ll likely experience a significant reduction in the number (and intensity) of afib episodes.
Do you have recommendations or suggestions to help prevent afib episodes? Share them in the comments below!