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Atrial Fibrillation Diet, Nutrition


Atrial fibrillation is a condition where faulty electrical signals make the atria contract irregularly at a rapid rate. Diet plays an important role in ensuring that the body has adequate stores of minerals to help the heart function smoothly and also in avoiding foods that trigger atrial fibrillation. A healthy low fat and low carb diet recommended for those with cardiac problems can work as an atrial fibrillation diet. Foods to eat with atrial fibrillation include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids and potassium, both of which are vital for the functioning of a healthy heart.  Apart from a minimum of five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in a day, it is also recommended that you include soy-based foods like tofu and tempeh to get adequate proteins and minerals like magnesium. Nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseeds contain heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can help control cardiac arrhythmia.

Foods To Avoid Atrial Fibrillation


Caffeine is known to stimulate the body and can act as a trigger for atrial fibrillation.
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Coffee, tea, colas, and other caffeinated beverages are classified as foods to avoid with atrial fibrillation, particularly for those who are diagnosed with this condition. Dietary restrictions for atrial fibrillation include eliminating or cutting down on fried foods and red meat. Food with high sodium content like cured meats and prepackaged foods like sauces and pickles are best avoided as these can increase blood pressure and lead to atrial fibrillation. Alcohol consumption and smoking are not advisable for those with a heart condition as both alcohol and nicotine can trigger an episode of arterial fibrillation. Foods rich in vitamin K such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli should be consumed in small quantities as vitamin K promotes blood clotting. Atrial fibrillation and food poisoning are closely connected because diarrhea or vomiting caused by food poisoning can alter the electrolyte balance in the body, depleting reserves of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium, triggering an attack of atrial fibrillation. More on diet for heart patients

Vitamins:

Vitamin C leads the pack when it comes to vitamins for atrial fibrillation reduction. The antioxidant properties and the anti-inflammatory action of vitamin C contribute to reducing cardiac stress and help to control atrial fibrillation. Vitamin B compounds, particularly vitamin B6 and B12, are essential to maintain optimal blood circulation and help in the production of healthy red blood cells. Vitamin B complex supplements help to reduce stress on the heart and prevent atrial fibrillation. Antioxidants in Vitamin E help to reduce the formation of plaque on the walls of arteries, paving the way for smoother blood circulation. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of dietary calcium in the body, and it is established that depletion of the levels of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium can trigger atrial fibrillation. The cardio-protective properties of vitamin K, including prevention of the formation of arterial plaque, are enhanced when combined with the recommended doses of vitamin D and calcium.

Nutrition:

Nutrition for atrial fibrillation patients should be planned around a low fat and low carbohydrate diet plan that eliminates processed foods that are high in sodium. Including several helpings of fresh fruit and vegetables, and soy products, besides nuts, lentils, and seeds ensures that the diet is well balanced. Dairy products like cheese and edible oils high in saturated fats and artificial sweeteners like aspartame are best avoided, if they are known to trigger atrial fibrillation. Foods rich in magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium like avocadoes, bananas, walnuts, and seafood ensure that the body gets the nutrients it requires. Besides including nutrients for atrial fibrillation reduction, it is also important to make lifestyle changes to eliminate alcohol, tobacco, and other stimulants.

Supplements:

Calcium supplements for atrial fibrillation are usually combined with magnesium to reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation. A malfunctioning thyroid gland can influence the hormone levels in the body, and iodine supplements may be needed to maintain the body’s bio-chemical balance. Getting these nutrients from natural sources like nuts, fish oil, and green vegetables is a healthier and cheaper option. Potassium supplements for atrial fibrillation are essential, but you can also get enough of the mineral from sweet potatoes, bananas, navy beans, avocados, and tomatoes.

Herbs:

Herbs for atrial fibrillation include a combination of wattle bark, Spanish chamomile, Indian bay leaf, and spices like cloves and nutmeg. Hawthorn berries, flowers, and leaves have been used traditionally to treat atrial fibrillation. Motherwort is another herb used to treat the condition. The bark of red cinchona, used to make quinine, which is the medicine for malaria, is also known to regulate heart rhythm.

Symptoms:

Many people with atrial fibrillation experience no symptoms at all. Some of the common atrial fibrillation symptoms are as follows:

  • Palpitations or rapid heartbeat. Some people are conscious of their heart racing or describe a fluttering sensation in their chest.
  • Chest pain and anxiety caused by the pain and irregular heartbeat.
  • Fatigue, weakness, and feeling disoriented.
  • Fainting or light headedness. Disintegrate, disparaging, domesticate, verbose, lithe
  • Tightness or discomfort in the chest.
Causes:

Atrial fibrillation causes may be related to disease of the heart or may be related to diseases like pneumonia, thyroid problems, or alcohol abuse. When it is caused by a heart related disease, it may be due to the following:
  • Heart valve disease
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy or enlargement of the walls of the lower chambers of the heart
  • Pericarditis or inflammation of the protective sac around the heart
  • Malfunctioning of the sinus node, where the heart’s electrical impulses originate
  • Cardiomyopathy or heart muscle disorder
  • High blood pressure and hypertensive heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis or narrowing of arteries due to the build-up of plaque
  • Cardiac bypass surgery
Treatment:
  • Atrial fibrillation treatment usually involves anti-arrhythmia medication to maintain normal heart rate. Blood thinning medication to prevent the formation of clots is also administered.
  • Defibrillation is a technique that uses a shot of electric current to jolt the heart back to its normal rhythm. This is done under anesthesia in a hospital.
  • Catheter ablation using radio frequency energy to disable the abnormal pathways used to conduct the heart’s electrical impulses is a fairly new procedure. It is recommended for those who cannot take anti-arrhythmia medication.
  • A pacemaker may be implanted in the patient to maintain the normal heart rhythm.
  • Maze surgery involving several cuts or burns in the atria to disrupt unwanted electrical signals may be performed to normalize heart rhythm, if the patient is undergoing open heart surgery for other cardiac problems.
Prevention:

Atrial fibrillation prevention can be achieved with the following:
  • Eating a heart healthy diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fats and rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight by undertaking vigorous physical activity for at least forty minutes every day.
  • Avoiding smoking, substance abuse, and alcohol.
  • Using caffeinated drinks in moderation.
  • Controlling high blood pressure and reducing salt intake.
Diagnosis:

Atrial fibrillation diagnosis can be done in the following ways:
  • An ECG or electrocardiogram may be done to determine if there is any arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation.
  • An echocardiogram gives an ultrasound image of the heart when the doctor needs to verify the functioning of the heart’s valves or suspects the presence of a blood clot.
  • Transesophageal echocardiography uses a thin tube inserted through the mouth into the stomach to get better images of the heart’s chambers.
  • Chest X-rays reveal if there is fluid build-up in the lungs.
  • Blood tests are done to verify the functioning of the thyroid gland and the balance of electrolytes in the body.
Submitted on January 16, 2014
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