4 Ways to Reduce Stress When You Have Atrial Fibrillation
Do you need to calm yourself, and your heart rhythm, down? Relax, we have some scientifically research-backed ways to keep stress from triggering or worsening your AFib.
Stress is an undeniable part of most of our lives. We’re bombarded daily with myriad reasons to feel stressed or anxious, from political news and financial worries to illness and work woes.
Stress is clearly understood to be psychologically taxing, but evidence is piling up that points to its physiological effects as well.
One clear example is the way in which chronic levels of stress impact your heart and cardiovascular health overall.
That effect is amplified if you already have a cardiovascular condition. For people with heart arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, or AFib — the most common form of heart rhythm abnormality — stress may trigger or worsen episodes.
An estimated 2.1 to 6.7 million Americans have AFib, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and this number is expected to rise as the population ages.
In Atrial Fibrillation (AFib,) electrical activity that normally regulates heart rhythm is out of whack, making the upper chambers of the heart beat erratically, says Eric J. Rashba, MD, director of the Heart Rhythm Center at Stony Brook University Heart Institute in New York.
Over time, poor blood flow to the area can prompt clots to form, and lead to a far higher risk of stroke.
What does stress have to do with it? Most significantly, stress can exacerbate some of the underlying conditions that cause atrial fibrillation, such as high blood pressure.
“People who are under stress are more likely not to eat well or take care of themselves and are prone to the kind of conditions that lead to atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Rashba, adding that responding to everyday stress by, say, drinking to excess, can bring on an episode of atrial fibrillation, as alcohol consumption is a known trigger for the condition.
Although, as Rashba notes, researching stress’s effect on atrial fibrillation is difficult (it’s impossible in a lab setting to give one group of people stress and make sure another group is not stressed), there are studies that point to a connection, at least to the ways in which stress leads to behaviors that may worsen atrial fibrillation. In a study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, researchers looked at 400 people who had experienced an initial episode of atrial fibrillation.
Via cognitive tests and patient interviews, they found that acute stress led many to make lifestyle changes, such as overeating and over consuming coffee, that may have precipitated their episode.
Finally, just having atrial fibrillation, particularly for the long term, leaves many sufferers more depressed and anxious than their same-age peers, found a study published in 2018 in the journal Cardiology Research and Practice.
This should prompt healthcare providers to check in with patients to evaluate stress and anxiety levels, and perhaps suggest ways to reduce stress.
To mitigate the effects of stress on atrial fibrillation, it makes sense to find ways to stay calmer and cooler. Here are four research-backed means of doing just that:
It isn’t easy to call to mind the picture of an anxious-looking yogi. There are good reason for that. Yoga training has long been linked to better cardiovascular health, among other physical and mental benefits.
In a small study reported in March 2013 in the American Journal of Cardiology, people with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation who practiced yoga twice a week experienced a reduction in atrial fibrillation episodes.
Immediately post-training, their blood pressure and heart rate were lower, and overall the participants had less anxiety and improved overall quality of life.
This intriguing practice involves using what’s called “self-regulation” to exert a positive impact on physiological processes, such as heart rate.
Think of biofeedback like meditation, but using a monitoring device to help you track your physiological data and use that as a means to train yourself to control your physiological response.
This approach can be used for the management of atrial fibrillation (AFib), particularly to control ventricular rate. In a small report published in February 2015 in the Journal of Thoracic Disease that compared the usefulness of various alternative therapies in treating atrial fibrillation, biofeedback training got high marks for its ability to help people decrease their heart rate and potentially manage atrial fibrillation.
We all know people who seem enviably calm and who attribute their ability to stave off stress to the practice of some form of meditation. It seems intuitive that any regular meditative practice would elicit a calming effect, both psychologically and physiologically.
Recent research published in May 2018 in Frontiers in Physiology, jointly undertaken by the University of North Texas and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, zeroed in on a novel way to quantify stress — in terms of heart-rate variability — and thereby to judge how well meditation can reduce it.
The study concluded that although various forms of medication are effective at reducing stress in the immediate term, the long-term practice of meditation made positive physiological changes permanent.
There’s no question that regular physical activity can reduce stress. The key to how it works specifically for atrial fibrillation is twofold: First, exercise that leads to even a modest amount of weight loss can help you lower blood pressure and reduce your risk for sleep apnea, two conditions that are major triggers for atrial fibrillation, says Rashba.
“Blood pressure, in particular, when it’s uncontrolled puts increased pressure on the heart over time, causing the muscle to become stiffer and the atrium that’s affected by atrial fibrillation to stretch, and the more that happens, the more often the heart goes into and stays in atrial fibrillation.”
But exercise that relieves stress also may have the benefit of helping you make other, healthier habits, such as drinking less and quitting smoking
Although there are successful medical treatments for atrial fibrillation, such as medication and ablation — a procedure that cauterizes the faulty electrical connections that lead to episodes — improving the conditions that trigger fibrillation by reducing stress has great promise. Your mind can be your greatest ally in improving your heart health.
How do I calm down with AFib?
At a minimum, these strategies may help you relax and cope with the episode until it stops.
- Engage in deep, mindful breathing. …
- Get some exercise
- Valsalva maneuver
- Practice yoga
- Put some cold water on your face
- Contact a health professional
Can stress make atrial fibrillation worse?
Stress can contribute to heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) such as atrial fibrillation. Some studies suggest that stress and mental health issues may cause your atrial fibrillation symptoms to worsen. High levels of stress may also be linked to other health problems.
What aggravates atrial fibrillation?
Certain situations can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation, including: drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, particularly binge drinking. being overweight (read about how to lose weight) drinking lots of caffeine, such as tea, coffee or energy drinks.
Can stress trigger an AFib episode?
While stress does not directly cause atrial fibrillation, it can have an effect on a patient’s episodes. The most common risk factors for Atrial Fibrillation are high blood pressure, diabetes, age, or a family history of AFib. Stress can have a great effect on a patient’s condition and lead to increased AFib episodes.
How do you reverse atrial fibrillation naturally?
Natural and Alternative Treatments for AFib
- Avoid stimulants.
- Get your nutrients.
- Stay hydrated.
- Cut out gluten.
- Exercise and stress relief.
- Question & answers
How do I get my heart back in rhythm naturally?
Exercise can improve overall cardiovascular health and help restore the heart’s natural rhythm. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety. Cardiovascular exercise helps strengthen the heart, which can prevent or reduce palpitations.
- Exercise regularly
- brisk walking.
Can atrial fibrillation go away?
Atrial Fibrillation may be brief, with symptoms that come and go. It is possible to have an atrial fibrillation episode that resolves on its own. Or, the condition may be persistent and require treatment.
Sometimes Atrial Fibrillation is permanent, and medicines or other treatments can’t restore a normal heart rhythm.
Can atrial fibrillation be reversed?
Right now, there’s no cure for it. But certain treatments can make symptoms go away for a long time for some people. No matter what, there are many ways to manage AFib that can help you live a healthy, active life.
Is AFib considered heart disease?
Atrial fibrillation is a progressive disease, so it is not uncommon for people with paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation to develop persistent or permanent Atrial Fibrillation over time.
Can you live a long life with atrial fibrillation?
The good news is that although Atrial Fibrillation is a long-term condition, if managed correctly, you can continue to lead a long and active life. There are a number of steps you can take that will help you manage your condition, lower your risk of stroke and relieve any worries you may have.
What is the most common cause of atrial fibrillation?
Problems with the heart’s structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include: Coronary artery disease. Heart attack
Does drinking water help atrial fibrillation?
When you have atrial fibrillation, drinking enough water is important. Electrolyte levels plummet when you’re dehydrated. This can lead to abnormal heart rhythm. When you’re dehydrated, your body’s electrolytes (electrolytes in general, and sodium and potassium in particular) are crucial for heart health.
What is the latest treatment for atrial fibrillation?
The newly approved technology has been found particularly beneficial for those with persistent atrial fibrillation, which is defined as Atrial Fibrillation that occurs for longer than a week but generally less than a year. The Thermocool Smarttouch Catheter is used during a catheter ablation procedure.
How does having AFib make you feel?
The most obvious symptom of atrial fibrillation is heart palpitations – where the heart feels like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for a few seconds or possibly a few minutes.
Does AFib get worse with age?
Yes. Your risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder, increases as you become older. Atrial fibrillation is much more common in older adults. Atrial fibrillation can occur at any age, but when it develops in younger people, it’s usually associated with other heart conditions.
How do you stop shortness of breath with AFib?
Palpitations, a rapid heartbeat, and a flutter in the chest might be the most common symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation, but they aren’t the only signs that your heart rhythm is off.
- Breathe more slowly, not more deeply.
- Holding your breath for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Breathing in and out of a paper bag.
- Breathing through pursed lips.
What foods trigger atrial fibrillation?
Foods to avoid for AFib
- Caffeine and energy drinks.
- Alcohol. A 2014 study found that even moderate alcohol intake could be a risk factor for Atrial Fibrillation
- Red meat
- Processed foods. Processed foods, such as ready meals or sausages, tend to have large quantities of salt and preservatives
- Sugary foods and drinks
Does deep breathing help atrial fibrillation?
If an atrial fibrillation episode does not stop on its own, some ways a person can stop the episode include taking slow, deep breaths or coughing. Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is a type of irregular heartbeat.
Can you live with AFib without medication?
Untreated Atrial Fibrillation can raise your risk for problems like a heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, which could shorten your life expectancy. But treatments and lifestyle changes can help prevent these problems and manage your risks.
What is the drug of choice for atrial fibrillation?
Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are the drugs of choice because they provide rapid rate control. These drugs are effective in reducing the heart rate at rest and during exercise in patients with atrial fibrillation.
What vitamins help irregular heartbeat?
Magnesium. This mineral helps keep your heart rhythm steady. When you don’t have enough of it in your body, you may have an irregular heartbeat. Studies suggest magnesium supplements may also help lower blood pressure slightly.
Is walking good for AFib?
In fact, walking can prove quite beneficial to the health and longevity of a person living with Atrial Fibrillation. Why? Aside from its long-term health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and resting heart rate and improved mental well-being, walking can help reduce the onset of Atrial Fibrillation symptoms
How long can you stay in AFib?
Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation lasts less than one week and usually stops on its own without treatment. (Paroxysmal is pronounced par-ək-ˈsiz-məl.) Persistent Atrial Fibrillation lasts more than one week and needs treatment. Long-standing persistent Atrial Fibrillation lasts more than a year and is sometimes difficult to treat.
Can you live with AFib without blood thinners?
While patients who have elevated stroke risks may be able to manage symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation — such as a racing heartbeat — with other medications or medical procedures, they will still need to take blood thinners to protect against stroke.
What is the most common treatment for atrial fibrillation?
Heart rate medicines: The most common way to treat atrial fibrillation is with drugs that control your heartbeat.
- Potassium channel blockers, which slow the electrical signals that cause Atrial Fibrillation:
- Amiodarone (Cordarone, Nexterone Pacerone),
- Dofetilide (Tikosyn)
- Sotalol (Betapace, Sorine, Sotylize)
When is AFib an emergency?
If an Atrial Fibrillation episode lasts 24 to 48 hours with no break or if symptoms worsen, call your physician, Armbruster says. Call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately if you experience any symptoms of a stroke, which are sudden weakness or numbness or difficulty speaking or seeing
Does AFib cause dementia?
Atrial fibrillation linked to increased risk of dementia, even in stroke-free patients. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is linked to an increased risk of dementia, even in people who have not suffered a stroke, according to the largest study to investigate the association in an elderly population.
What is the most common cause of death in atrial fibrillation?
Conclusion. SCD is the most common cause of cardiovascular death in patients with atrial fibrillation and has several distinct predictors, some of which are modifiable.
Can AFib go away with weight loss?
One study found that a 10% weight loss, along with managing associated risk factors such as sleep apnea and alcohol consumption, can reverse Atrial Fibrillation progression. Weight management also can reduce the risk of recurrent Atrial Fibrillation after having a cardiac ablation procedure to correct the abnormal heart rhythm.
Should you rest with atrial fibrillation?
If you are in Atrial Fibrillation all the time (persistent Atrial Fibrillation), you can exercise as much as you want, as long as your heart rate is under control, you are stable on your treatment and are feeling well. If you’re not feeling well because of your Atrial Fibrillation, ask your GP or specialist for exercise advice.
How do you prevent AFib from coming back?
The basics include not smoking, following a heart-healthy Mediterranean-style diet (high in plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fats), being physically active and keeping to a normal weight (as indicated on a body-mass index chart).
What can a hospital do for AFib?
The most common intervention performed in the emergency room for patients with atrial fibrillation is the use of heart rate and rhythm altering medications. These medications will be used to reduce the speed and normalize the rhythm of the heart to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Does AFib make you sleep a lot?
Between sleepiness, fatigue, low energy, and general malaise, atrial fibrillation can be a draining disorder. While some people won’t detect too much of a difference in their energy levels, many of those who live with Atrial Fibrillation complain of frequent fatigue that can interrupt their daily routine.
How atrial fibrillation may affect your brain?
Atrial Fibrillation increases the risk of stroke and subclinical cerebral infarcts and can lead to brain hypoperfusion. Oral anticoagulation in patients with Atrial Fibrillation can lead to new or worsening cerebral microbleeds. In turn, these conditions lead to cognitive decline and increased risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.
Can AFib cause vision problems?
Other symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sudden loss or blurring of vision in one or both eyes, or sudden confusion, dizziness or unsteadiness. What is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat.
Can AFib lead to a stroke?
Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots in the heart. Atrial Fibrillation increases the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
Does sleeping position affect AFib?
Your sleeping position could be part of the problem if you have paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation. One study found that people who slept on their left sides reported more symptoms. This position may put more stress on your heart. What you eat and drink – and when – can affect your sleep with Atrial Fibrillation.
Does atrial fibrillation make you tired?
Other symptoms you may experience if you have atrial fibrillation include: tiredness and being less able to exercise. breathlessness. feeling faint or lightheaded.