I Have Atrial Fibrillation… Now What?
5 Tips for Managing AFib
By Brianna McCabe
Thump thump…........ Thump thump…........ Thump thump…........
The heartbeat: a human’s constant percussion-like sound.
A normal heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute in adults. Sometimes, though, people’s hearts may orchestrate a much faster-paced rhythm.
Thump thump.. Thump thump.. Thump thump..
Atrial fibrillation, commonly called AFib, is when the heart beats irregularly—ranging anywhere from 100 to 175 beats per minute. Described as a ‘pounding’ or ‘fluttering’ sensation, it is estimated that over 2 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with this condition.
“This is the most common heart rhythm problem among adults in the developed world,” explains Grant Simons, M.D., chief of Heart Rhythm Services at Hackensack University Medical Center. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that roughly 2% of people younger than 65 years old have AFib, while about 9% of people age 65 and older have it.
“It’s critical to manage your AFib to reduce your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications,” advises Dr. Simons. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with AFib, Dr. Simons offers the following five tips:
Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan. There are generally two basic strategies for patients dealing with AFib:
Rate control. “In this method, our goal is to regulate the heartbeat so, during an AFib episode, the heart isn’t beating as fast,” Dr. Simons says. To accomplish this, medications are administered.
Rhythm control. “Here, we are trying to lower the frequency and duration of episodes and eradicate it using specialized medications or ablation, a catheter procedure,” he says.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle. “A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and proteins, healthy fats and whole grains, in addition to regular exercise, can help in maintaining a healthy weight. “There is plenty of evidence that a healthy lifestyle and weight loss can be beneficial and help manage a ‘racing’ heartbeat. Additionally, certain workouts—like yoga—can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, which has been shown to decrease the frequency of AFib,” says Dr. Simons.”
Manage risk factors. For patients with high blood pressure or diabetes, tight management of blood pressure and blood sugar levels has been shown to reduce the frequency of AFib episodes. It is important to work with your primary doctor to achieve these goals.”
Learn your triggers. There are some triggers that can increase the likelihood of having an episode, notes Dr. Simons, such as caffeine and alcohol. “There are patients who can identify these and make efforts to avoid,” he says. “However, a vast majority of episodes are random and unpredictable.”
Have an open relationship with your health care team. According to Dr. Simons, patients should be comfortable with their doctors and have access to communicate when and if a problem arises. “Just as importantly, patients should feel that their doctors are explaining their health and therapies in a way that is understandable,” he says. “Patients should feel empowered to learn more and take control of their health.”
Dr. Simons practices in Hackensack and Northvale. To make an appointment at either of his offices, call 551-996-5870.
Dr. Simons is part of Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group, a network of over 1,000 physicians and advanced providers at more than 300 practice locations throughout New Jersey. Visit HMHMedicalGroup.org for more information.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet