Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can cause life-threatening conditions if ignored. By changing your diet to support heart health, you can help avoid triggering abnormal heart rhythms and reduce your risk of AFib-related cardiac episodes.
At Indus Cardiology, with offices in Pomona, West Covina, and Montclair, California, Dr. Yogesh Paliwal provides preventive cardiology care, and can help you manage your atrial fibrillation symptoms.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, causes your heart to beat faster than normal. This is due to an abnormal electrical rhythm in the upper chambers of your heart causing an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). The biggest danger of AFib is the increased risk for cardiac arrest or stroke.
While you can't change any genetic propensity for AFib, you can change your eating habits to support heart health. Certain foods can trigger symptoms, while others give your heart the help it needs to stay strong. Here's what you should and shouldn't do in regard to your diet if you have been diagnosed with AFib.
Do eat heart healthy foods
You should eat the following as a major part of your diet:
- Fruits (especially stone fruits and berries)
- Vegetables (especially colorful ones, like greens, squashes, and peppers)
- Lean proteins (like fish, chicken, and rabbit)
- Whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley
- Seeds, nuts, and legumes (assuming no allergies exist)
- Healthy fats (coconut and olive oils and avocados)
Don't chug the caffeine
While a cuppa joe or an occasional soda is all right, don't carry a thermos with you all day, and definitely skip the supersized cup. If you can't cut down on your favorite beverage that easily, prime the pump with a small dose of caffeinated drink, then switch to decaf. You'll keep a more level blood pressure, sleep better, and may be able to avoid triggering AFib.
Do eat frozen produce
While most people assume fresh is best, if you live far from orchards and gardens, your produce is likely shipped in. It was probably picked before it was ripe and lost nutrients during transport and forced ripening. Frozen vegetables and fruits are often harvested right at peak ripeness and flash frozen, so you could be doing yourself a favor snagging a wide range of choices from the frozen food aisle.
Don't oversalt your food
Too much salt makes your blood pressure go up, and high blood pressure can double your risk for AFib episodes. Try using other seasonings to help you enjoy your meal with little or no salt. Great seasoning choices include various types of cracked or ground pepper, fresh garlic, and heart healthy oils like olive oil infused with lemon or rosemary.
Do carry a water bottle
Dehydration can trigger AFib, so staying on top of your daily water intake can be critical to staying heart healthy. Make it your goal to drink at least a cup of water every hour or so throughout your day, and drink water with meals instead of other beverages. Also, cut down on alcohol; it can cause complications in some patients, and dehydrates you even more.
Don't disregard calories
Calorie counting isn't just for weight watchers. It's also a good policy if you're trying to maintain heart health. Too any calories helps put on pounds, and if you are overweight or obese, your risk for AFib encounters goes up. Managing daily caloric intake can help you achieve and maintain a weight that doesn't add stress to your heart.
Do get enough electrolytes
Low potassium and magnesium levels can trigger abnormal heart rhythms. Eat foods high in these electrolyte-rich minerals, such as fruits, vegetables and fish, whole grains, fortified cereal, beans, nuts, and green leafy veggies. Leg cramping is an early sign of low potassium, so keep a banana on hand for a quick infusion into your system.
Following these diet tips can help you increase your heart health and reduce your risk of an AFib attack.
To learn more about AFib and your diet, talk to our specialists at Indus Cardiology. To get in touch with the team, call the location closest to you or visit the contact page for more information.