Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Atrial fibrillation — often simply called Afib — is a common heart rhythm disorder that causes the heart (the atria) to beat irregularly instead of rhythmically.
Although AFib is not a life-threatening condition in itself, however, it can lead to many serious medical consequences, including stroke, blood clots, and congestive heart failure.
What are the symptoms of AFib?
Those who have AFib may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Heart palpitations (fast, fluttering, or pounding)
Shortness of breath
What are the common causes of AFib?
The things that most often cause AFib are:
Can you prevent AFib?
Although AFib is a long-term condition, if managed correctly with lifestyle and dietary modifications, you can continue to lead a long and active life.
A good general rule of thumb is to follow a heart-healthy diet to help manage and reduce the symptoms of this condition.
In this article, we explore what AFib foods to avoid for managing this condition.
What foods belong on a “do not eat” list for AFib patients?
Foods to avoid may include those that directly trigger symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AFib) in some patients and raise the risk of heart disease and cholesterol. These include:
Caffeine and energy drinks
Caffeine’s role as a potential trigger for AFib is somewhat controversial. Older research suggests a link and recommends strict abstinence.
However, newer studies demonstrate that coffee could be possibly beneficial for AFib patients.
In any case, you should go easy on your coffee as too much caffeine could raise your blood pressure and heart rate, which might set off episodes of AFib. Limit yourself to no more than one cup a day.
Health experts agree that drinking and atrial AFib don’t mix. That’s because even a moderate intake of alcohol can trigger symptoms of the condition.
Observational studies have found that alcohol has an immediate—or near-immediate—effect on cardiac rhythm, considerably raising the likelihood of an atrial fibrillation episode.
Even a single drink per day — a glass of wine, a beer, whiskey, gin, or other spirits — can make managing symptoms of AFib very challenging. Therefore, abstinence from alcohol may be advisable.
Many studies and medical literature have noted that overindulging in red meats such as pork, beef or lamb can affect your heart health.
These foods tend to have high amounts of saturated fat, which may raise LDL or bad cholesterol.
That’s why cardiologists suggest that their patients with atrial fibrillation monitor their intake of high-cholesterol foods.
Processed and packaged foods
Processed foods, such as ready meals or sausages, may be convenient, but they are high in calories, salt and preservatives.
It may be best to limit the intake of processed foods as they can adversely affect the heart and increase the risk of having frequent AFib episodes.
Sugary foods and drinks
People should avoid foods and drinks that contain a large amount of sugar, as these can make you more susceptible to an Afib episode or other heart arrhythmias.
There is evidence that consuming high sugar food like ketchup, pasta sauces, soda, sugar baked goods, pies, and candy bars can not only lead to obesity but cause high blood pressure as well — both of which can cause AFib.
Dietary sodium intake may increase the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation.
If consumed above the recommended daily amount, it may elevate your blood pressure. It is important to read the labels and limit salt intake to reduce blood pressure and AFib.
At the end of the day, dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce the complications of AFib. If you haven’t had the healthiest diet in the past, there’s still time to turn things around by avoiding the above foods that could trigger atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Having said that, it is worthwhile to remember that there isn’t a single food that may be associated with an increased risk of AFib and other cardiovascular conditions. And there isn’t one that’s going to save you. It is about balance.
Also, it’s best to get regular heart screenings to keep an eye on your cardiovascular health and take adequate measures if something comes off.
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