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Atrial Fibrillation (cont.)

Living With Atrial Fibrillation

Because atrial fibrillation is often the result of a heart condition, making changes to improve your heart condition will usually improve your overall health. Some of these changes include:

  • Not smoking. If you smoke, try to quit. Medicines and counseling can help you quit for good.
  • Controlling your cholesterol. This can be done by diet and exercise, and medicines if needed.
  • Controlling your blood pressure. Follow a low-sodium, low-fat, and low-saturated fat diet; increase your exercise; decrease alcohol intake; and take medicines, if needed, to control your blood pressure.
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet. This includes eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit sodium and saturated fat. Eat fish, especially oily fish like salmon and tuna, at least twice each week. For more information, see:
    Click here to view an Actionset.Heart Disease: Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet.
  • Not using alcohol, caffeine, or stimulants, such as methamphetamines or cocaine. Be aware that some nonprescription medicines, especially cold and herbal remedies, contain stimulants that can trigger atrial fibrillation. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicine.
  • Trying an exercise program. Exercise has many positive effects: weight management, cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control, blood sugar leveling in diabetes, triglyceride reduction, mood elevation, and increased strength. Try to exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. For more information, see the topic Cardiac Rehabilitation.
  • Avoiding illness from the flu. Get a flu shot every year.
  • Being on the alert for signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Many people with atrial fibrillation also have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Using complementary options to help control your stress. Examples include:

Check your heartbeat regularly. To learn how to check your pulse, see taking your pulseClick here to see an illustration.. If you notice that your heartbeat does not have a regular rhythm, talk to your doctor. Checking your heartbeat is important, because many people do not have symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Ask your doctor how often you should check your heartbeat. Once a month might be right for you.

Safety and anticoagulants

When you take an anticoagulant (also called a blood thinner), you need to take extra steps to avoid bleeding problems, such as preventing falls and injuries. If you take warfarin, you also get regular blood tests and watch how much vitamin K you eat or drink.

Click here to view an Actionset.Warfarin: Taking Your Medicine Safely
Click here to view an Actionset.Blood Thinners Other Than Warfarin: Taking Them Safely
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