Self-Care and Heart Health: Tips for Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Self-Care and Heart Health: Tips for Atrial Fibrillation Patients

By Cynthia Thaik, M.D.

People with atrial fibrillation (AFib) require treatment to control their heart rate, heart rhythm and coagulation.  It’s a serious but manageable condition, but it doesn’t mean you can’t keep on leading a full and active life. Self-care and spiritual wellness are important for any care management plan because they speak directly to the twin needs of physical and emotional health.

Emotional well-being can help bolster your recovery plan by keeping you in good spirits and enthusiastic about your life in general. In some cases, self-care serves the same objective as physical care management for AFib patients. Ultimately, it’s about following a healthy and happy lifestyle, which includes using common sense and making healthful decisions instead of indulging in negative behaviors that can exacerbate your condition.

Diet

It’s no secret that a healthy diet is a building block of self-care and essential to successfully managing your condition if you have AFib. Emphasize heart-healthy foods in your daily diet, including fruit and vegetables as well as foods rich in protein and whole grains. Minimize carbohydrates and avoid processed foods and items heavy in salt and sugar. AFib patients should also limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol, which can activate their condition.

It’s also important to consider your gut health. Although many people believe they can eat whatever they like without consequence, what you put into your body can have a very serious impact on the health of the good bacteria living in your gut. If you’re suffering from bloating, unexplainable weight gain, shifts in mood, or troublesome digestive issues, then you need to incorporate more gut-healthy foods into your diet. Similar to when you’re eating a nutritious, heart-healthy diet, this should include high-fiber foods, fruits, and vegetables. And while you’re at it, try to cut back on the refined sugar and carbohydrates.

Exercise

Self-care and managing your physical health also come together in the need for exercise, though you should take care to follow a medically supervised exercise program. You can still pursue cardiovascular health, muscle strength, flexibility and good balance doing exercises that you enjoy and which produce positive results, like helping you maintain a healthy weight. Brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming and strength training are good exercises for AFib patients. Remember that it’s important to keep an eye on your blood pressure during and after exercise, since atrial fibrillation can lower blood pressure and leave you vulnerable to complications if you get too overheated from exercising. With any change in your fitness routine, always consult with your physician before launching into a new exercise program.

Controlling stress

Medical science has proven that stress is a killer that attacks your major organs and is especially hard on your cardiovascular system. AFib patients can benefit from relaxing self-care activities such as meditation and yoga, disciplines that can keep the blood pressure under control and help you get more and better-quality sleep. Spiritual well-being can also help you manage stress. Being part of a faith community imparts a strong sense of belonging and personal serenity. It also alleviates feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and it can even bolster your immune system.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition that can be affected by many external factors, which can be alleviated by practicing self-care and spirituality. Self-care and a strong faith are particularly effective when it comes to managing heart health and controlling the symptoms of AFib. Personal well-being can make a difference in many aspects of your life.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

About the author

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D. is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact staff@drcynthia.com or call (818) 842-1410.