Following a healthy diet, prioritizing exercise and limiting alcohol and tobacco intake can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life, especially if you have a heart condition such as atrial fibrillation (AFib).
AFib is an irregular heart rhythm that affects more than 6 million people in the United States and can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure. AFib symptoms include heart palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
One of the most notable risk factors for AFib is high blood pressure. An unhealthy diet and unhealthy habits can be contributing factors to high blood pressure, so making adjustments to diet and daily routines can help manage symptoms and help you lead a healthier life.
Consider these three tips to help you start living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
1. Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet
Too much sugar and salt can lead to high blood pressure, putting you potentially at risk for heart diseases, including AFib. When shopping for food, take time to read the nutrition facts and choose foods lower in sodium and sugar, or consider trying spices and herbs as a healthier alternative to salt. Another healthy swap is removing trans fats and saturated fats, like fried or fast foods and fatty meats like sausage and bacon, and instead trying unsaturated fats like seeds and avocados.
Whole grains are a good source of fiber that play a part in regulating blood pressure and heart health. When eaten as part of a heart-healthy diet, whole grains can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and weight, and lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by up to 32%. Dietary fiber can help improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Incorporate vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains into your diet to increase your daily fiber intake.
2. Get Some Exercise to Kickstart Your Heart
Exercise can help make both your body and heart stronger. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week – that’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Aerobic exercise can include walking, running, swimming, playing tennis and more.
It is also important to incorporate strength training exercises into your workout regimen at least twice a week. Any activity is better than no activity, so even making an effort to stand up throughout the day to walk around, parking farther away from a destination, or taking the stairs can make a difference.
3. Limit Alcohol and Tobacco Usage
Moderation is key when consuming alcohol, as excessive consumption correlates directly to increased risk for high blood pressure along with other negative side effects, like triggering AFib episodes. In addition, tobacco use is strongly discouraged as part of any healthy diet, but it has particularly problematic effects on heart health, like damaging the function of your heart and the structure and function of your blood vessels.
To learn more about AFib and your treatment options, or to find an electrophysiologist near you, visit GetSmartAboutAFib.com.