Atrial Fibrillation: Alternative treatment to prevent blood clots and stroke risk
How to Treat Atrial Fibrillation Naturally
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a form of a cardiac arrhythmia, a condition in which the heart beats abnormally. AFib can be temporary or permanent and it can be a relatively benign disorder, although it can also lead to serious health risks and consequences, including strokes and heart attacks.Anyone with atrial fibrillation should be seen by his healthcare practitioner, where you can develop a treatment plan that likely involves medication and potentially surgery to reset your heart's natural rhythm and prevent blood clots from occuring.However, you can also make an effort to alleviate AFib naturally by modifying your diet, making some lifestyle changes, and taking supplements.
Modifying Your Diet
Increase the amount of fresh produce in your diet.Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies contain high levels of antioxidants which may protect against heart disease in general.Choose brightly colored fruits and vegetables for the highest level of antioxidants. These include berries (blueberries, raspberries), apples, plums, oranges and citrus fruit (vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant), leafy green vegetables, squash, and bell peppers.
- Fresh produce is best, but frozen vegetables and fruits can also be used if that's what available or if the fruit or vegetable is not in season.
- A good rule of thumb is to make sure that half of your plate is fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid eating vegetables in any sort of creamy sauces that may add fats to your diet. You should also avoid fruits that have sugar or are accompanied by a heavy syrup (with added sugars).
- Note that reduced amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables have been associated with heart disease.The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that adult women should eat about 2.5 cups of vegetables per day and adult men should eat 3 cups per day.
Switch to organic foods as much as possible.Produce and foods labelled "organic" contain no pesticides or other chemicals like hormones and antibiotics that may be related to an increased risk of heart disease.
- If you can't afford to buy all organic foods, stick to the foods that you consume heavily and those that are more likely to be sprayed by pesticides, such as fruits and vegetables, like lettuce greens, spinach, strawberries and other berries, and so on.
Keep junk and processed food to a minimum.Oily food, saturated fatty food, junk food, fast food, processed food, and food with MSG are all examples of known trigger factors for atrial fibrillation. If you are used to consuming any of these in large quantities on a daily basis, then stopping all of them at once is the best option. If you want to determine the one culprit, you may try stopping any one, one at a time and observe the effects.
- Limit the amount of processed and prepackaged food you because the additives and preservatives in such foods not only lack vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, but can also cause adverse health reactions.
- Stick to complex carbohydrates. If you avoid processed foods, you have essentially included only complex carbohydrates, since the processing of food breaks down the carbohydrates into the simple carbohydrates. High amounts of simple carbohydrates increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- A good rule of thumb is that if the food is too white (e.g., white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc.), it has been processed. Instead, eat whole grain breads, brown rice and whole grain pasta.
- It may take some extra practice and planning, but the closer you can get to cooking from scratch, using whole foods that have NOT been processed (and therefore retain most of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients) the healthier you (and your heart!) will be.
Cut back on the fat in your diet.The American Heart Association recommends that you cut back all trans fats and limit saturated fats to less than 7% of your total daily calories. The best way to reduce saturated fats in your daily life is to avoid cooking with butter, margarine and shortening. Use olive oil or canola oil instead.
- Make a concerted effort to avoid fat by, for example, trimming the fats off any meats and getting rid of skins on poultry, for example. Substitute low-fat alternatives, such as salsa or yogurt for a baked potato instead of fatty butter.
Avoid sugar and sugary foods.Avoid sugar and sugar substitutes including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS is believed to increase obesity and the risk of diabetes and heart disease), neotame, saccharin (Sweet’n Low) and sucralose (Splenda).
- Limit the sugar that you add to things, including your coffee in the morning or on top of your cereal at breakfast.Avoid sodas and fruit juices, which are loaded with sugar (even the diet ones, which use a chemical substitute instead of sugar).
- If you still need some sweetness, try using the herb stevia (Truvia) to give some extra sweetness but with no additional calories.
Limit red meats and meats in general.Opt instead for poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs to get your protein fix. If you do eat red meat, make sure the beef is lean (preferably grass fed as this meat has the natural ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats), and the poultry is skinless.
- It's best to buy organic, locally sourced meat whenever you can. You want to choose meat (red meat but also poultry) that is raised without hormones or antibiotics.
Include legumes in your diet.Legumes include foods like lentils, peas, and beans and contain many of the vitamins (eg. B vitamins) and minerals (Magnesium, Calcium) needed to help maintain healthy heart function. Legumes are excellent sources of protein that are also low-fat.
- Many of these foods, such as black beans, chickpeas, soy beans, are also complete proteins, meaning that they provide all of the nine essential amino acids required for human dietary needs.
Eat plenty of fish.Fish is another excellent source of protein that is also low-fat. Cold water fish, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that have been proven to be healthy for the heart by lowering blood fats called triglycerides. Try to incorporate fresh cold water fish into your 2-3 times a week.
- You can also find alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil.
- Be aware that higher omega-3 fat intake is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
Reduce your salt intake.Controlling how much salt you are consuming on a daily level can help some people control their blood pressure.Recommended salt intakes vary, but you should aim for between 1500mg - 2300 mg of sodium per day.
- Be sure to read all food labels carefully. The Food and Drug Administration requires food producers to note how much salt is in a product and what percentage that makes of your daily recommended intake of sodium.
- Avoiding processed foods like canned soups and other prepared meals can help you reduce your salt intake. Instead, make more of your own food at home and from fresh ingredients!
Go nuts about nuts and go bananas for bananas.Eat a small handful of almonds (10 to 12 per day), but stay away from peanuts and cashew nuts, especially the salted variety. Almonds, due to their high content of vitamin E, have a relaxing effect on the muscle fibres of the heart.
- Bananas – due to their high potassium content – are known to lower blood pressure. Their serotonin content acts as a mood elevator, mimicking the natural serotonin in our bodies, thus making the body less responsive to stress that could worsen the fibrillation. Eat a banana a day.
Control your portion sizes.Food and drinks, in any form, natural or junk – if consumed beyond the required quantity at one go – is also bad news for your heart. Overeating diverts the blood circulation from the heart to the stomach and that causes the heart to feel inadequacy in being able to transport the electrical impulses. In other words, arrhythmia will rear its ugly head.
- Being more aware of your portion sizes may also help you lose weight, which can reduce your risk of heart disease.To start, try using smaller bowls or plates to help limit your portions while also tricking your mind. A full plate always looks more appetizing.
- Track how much your eating by becoming aware of serving sizes. A serving size is a the amount of food (measured in cups, ounces, or pieces) you should be eating according to FDA guidelines. For example, one serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck, while a single serving of meat ranges from two to three ounces and is roughly the size and thickness of a deck of cards. It will take time to learn appropriate portions so you may want to start training your mind by using a scale and/or other measuring instruments.
- Note that restaurants typically give much larger portions of food than we should actually be consuming during a given meal.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Be moderate with caffeine consumption.Coffee, chocolate, caffeinated tea, energy drinks, cola drinks, teas and anything else with caffeine should be limited Although for a long time, researchers believed that coffee was a trigger for AFib and recommended avoiding all caffeinated beverages and foods, more recent research has challenged the link between caffeine and AFib.Researchers who tracked 30,000 women found no difference in AFib risk between women who drank lots of caffeine and women who drank the least amounts of caffeine.
- Caffeine can, however, increase your blood pressure and heart rate, which could trigger AFib. Try to be more conscious of how much caffeine you drink. Stick to one to two cups (as in small mugs, or four ounce cups of coffee) per day and be aware that most commercial retailers, such as Starbucks, sell their coffee in large portion sizes; even a "short" Starbucks coffee is already eight ounces.
- What you should also do is cut back on any sugar that accompanies caffeinated foods and beverages.
Limit alcohol consumption.Alcohol, in any form, should be reduced, but does not have to be completely avoided. Just be cautious about how much you are drinking and only drink in moderation. Women should limit themselves to one drink per day and men to a maximum of two drinks per day. Note that one drink is considered one beer (12 oz), one glass of wine (5 oz) or one mixed drink containing 1.5 oz of liquor.
- Don't drink every day. Try to have two to three days a week where you don't consume any alcohol.
- Heavy drinking increases your risk of AFib. Some research suggests that for every drink you have on top of the recommendation, your risk increases by 8%. In addition, heavy drinking can cause problems if you already have AFib and increases your risk of having an AFib episode. Large amounts of alcohol can also increase the likelihood of bleeding among those taking blood-thinning medications.
Quit smoking.If you smoke and have been diagnosed with AFib, then you should quit immediately. Smoking causes the heart to beat faster and lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood, which in turn causes additional damage to the heart and increases the likelihood of an AFib episode.
- Quitting smoking, although it isn't easy, is worthwhile because it will benefit your overall health.
Reduce your stress. There is some evidence suggesting that both immediate and more long-term stress can bring on episodes of AFib.It is thus important that you take steps to counter and avoid stress.
- Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, are all stress management techniques that can help you combat the stress effectively. Whatever works for you, do it.
- Make time to relax for at least an hour each day, especially in the morning and in the evening before bed. Everyone needs time to recharge their batteries. This may mean reading a book, playing a game, or just spending time with family.
Do moderate exercise.Moderate exercise is usually fine for most people because it helps reduce your risk of heart disease as well as regulate your biological rhythms and help you sleep better and maintain a healthy weight. However, you need to discuss your specific situation with your cardiologist before engaging in any exercise if you have AFib. Your doctor will likely recommend that you avoid strenuous exercise to avoid a high heart rate (which can cause an AFib episode) and give you a goal heart rate during exercise and and a time limit on how long to maintain it.
- If you experience an episode of AFib during exercise, stop and notify your physician for advice.
- Strenuous or vigorous exercise that raises your heart rate significantly should be avoided.
- If you're concerned about exercising, Stretch regularly instead. Do stretching exercises and warm up exercises that one would normally do before a rigorous workout – minus the actual workout. This can be done for 5 to 7 minutes once a day. It'll warm up your muscles and get your blood flowing without the stress on your heart.
Do yoga.This is one of the most powerful tools that will work at the level of both the mind and body. Avoid strenuous yoga such as power yoga or aerobic yoga. Basic yogic breathing techniques and simple asanas, or postures, can be performed with ease.Yoga will also help you meditate and de-stress yourself.
- Avoid postures like shirshasana (standing on your head) that brings the blood flow of the body to the brain rather than the heart. Asanas such as ‘downward dog’ are known to be useful for Atrial Fibrillation.
Do breathing exercises.Every day, twice a day, sit or lie down comfortably with your legs propped up (to bring blood flow to your heart). Inhale deeply for a count of four and watch or feel your belly inflate and rise. Then, exhale through your nose or mouth for the same count of four. Make the inhalations match the exhalations in length and imagine a consistent wave of breath and oxygen moving through your body. Try doing this even for 5 minutes a day. This can help calm and slow the heart beat if you're experiencing palpitations or a rapid heart beat.
- If your mind wanders while you breathe, try focusing on counting your inhalations and exhalations.
Talk to your doctor.Only consider supplements after you have consulted with your primary care physician. Some supplements may cause adverse reactions in your specific case, so consult a health professional before undertaking a trip into the realm of vitamins and minerals.
- Note that there are some supplements that may benefit individuals with heart disease, though not specifically for AFib.
- Be aware that the best way to get vitamins, nutrients, and minerals is through food. Supplements should only be considered as a secondary measure.
Take fish oil supplements.If you are not consuming fish directly, you can try taking fish oil capsules or cod liver oil capsules that contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This essentially helps to reduce your risk of of blood clots and thereby worsening of atrial fibrillation.
- You should take 2,000-8,000 milligrams in liquid or tablet form in separate doses daily. Consult your physician as to the appropriate dosage for you specifically.
Try magnesium, potassium, and calcium supplements.These three minerals can reduce your risk for irregular hearth rhythms.
- Magnesium and potassium are both essential minerals in the muscle contraction process of the heart as well as normal functioning of the heart. Magnesium can be taken as a single dose of 400 milligrams per day to begin with and then its effects should be observed as magnesium can cause diarrhea. The dose should not exceed 900 mgs per day. Consider taking a B-vitamin complex with the magnesium as vitamin B6 is needed for optimal absorption of magnesium into your cells.
- Potassium supplements that contain 4.7 grams of potassium are a good choice to take every day.
- Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth and may lower blood pressure and the risk of strokes.You should take calcium in individual doses of no more than 500 mg during the day to a maximum of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams. Drink at least 6 cups of water with each dose to avoid constipation.
Take supplemental Coenzyme Q10 if on statin drugs.Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 as it is popularly known is known to be naturally occurring and highly concentrated in the heart muscle. It helps fulfill the energy need of the cardiac muscle which has a high energy requirement.However, if you're taking statin drugs to reduce cholesterol, this can decrease cellular levels of CoQ10. As a result, many physicians now recommend patients taking statins to take supplemental CoQ10, although research is still being done to confirm a link between supplemental CoQ10 and reduced adverse effects of statins. Talk to your physician about whether this is an option for you.
- The dosage of CoQ10 can range from 22 to 400 milligrams per day, but the most common dose is 200 milligrams per day.
Get vitamin D.Vitamin D is best obtained from a free source, such as sunlight. Spend 10-15 minutes in the sun three times a week (without any sunscreen) and you should be getting sufficient vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for heart health, bones, and teeth and also helps build a strong immune system.
- Vitamin D is a vitamin stored in your fat tissue, so it is possible to get too much. Get your levels tested; levels of 50 nmol/L or above (20 ng/mL or above) are sufficient. However, if your vitamin D levels are less than 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL), then these are too low and you should consider a vitamin D supplement. Start with a vitamin D supplement with 1000 IU per day. Consult your doctor about the appropriate dosage.
Consider a taurine supplement.Taurine is one of the free amino acids found in the heart and, along with magnesium and potassium, is considered the "essential trio" for treating nutritional deficiencies connected with AFib. Taurine is the most abundant and important amino acid in the heart because it helps to regulate the enzymes in the heart that help the contractility of the cardiac muscles.
- Take 3,000 milligrams in separate dosages with food each day.
- Note that certain food additives can reduce naturally-occurring taurine in the body, including monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame, the artificial sweetener in many diet sodas and snacks.
QuestionWhat causes someone's B12 to be doubled?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerHigh cobalamin (B12) levels isn't always a bad thing. However, elevated levels are due most commonly to taking too much of the supplement, solid neoplasms, myeloproliferative blood disorders, liver metastases, liver diseases and kidney failure.Thanks!
QuestionShould my husband be taking potassium for his AFib?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYour husband should talk to his doctor about the best way to treat his AFib. His doctor will be able to give the best recommendations based on your husband's health history.Thanks!
Sources and Citations
- Centre for Reviews and, D. (2008). Antioxidant vitamins intake and the risk of coronary heart disease: meta‐analysis of cohort studies (Structured abstract). European Journal Of Cardiovascular Prevention And Rehabilitation, 15(1), 26-34.
- Flores-Mateo, G., Carrillo-Santisteve, P., Elosua, R., Guallar, E., Marrugat, J., Bleys, J., & Covas, M. (2009). Antioxidant enzyme activity and coronary heart disease: meta-analyses of observational studies. American Journal Of Epidemiology, 170(2), 135-147.
- Papandreou, C., & Tuomilehto, H. (2014). Coronary heart disease mortality in relation to dietary, lifestyle and biochemical risk factors in the countries of the Seven Countries Study: a secondary dataset analysis. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, 27(2), 168-175.
- Lakkireddy D. Role of yoga and stress reduction techniques in the management of AFib. Boston Atrial Fibrillation Symposium 2012; January 12, 2012; Boston, MA.
- Davis, DR., Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What is the Evidence? J Hort Sci. 44(1) 15-19, 2009.
- Mortensen S.A., Vadhanavikit S., Muratsu K., Folkers K. (1990) Coenzyme Q10: Clinical benefits with biochemical correlates suggesting a scientific breakthrough in the management of chronic heart failure. Int. J. Tissue React., Vol. 12 (3), pp 155-162.
- Deichmann,R., Lavie,C.,Andrews,S. Coenzyme Q10 and Statin-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Ochsner J. 2010 Spring; 10(1): 16–21.
- Hernandez, J.; Artillo, S.; Serrano, M. I.; and Serrano, J. S. Further evidence of the antiarrhythmic efficacy of taurine in the rat heart. Res. Commun. Chem. Patho. Pharma., 43(2):343-346, 1984.
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