Atrial Fibrillation – Foods To Eat And Avoid

Atrial fibrillation is the medical term for what doctors refer to as irregular heartbeat. The main function of the heart is to pump blood to ensure that the oxygenated blood is circulated throughout the body. An irregular heartbeat can mess up with blood circulation and lead to complications including a stroke and frequent blood clots. Also commonly referred to as a-fib, this condition predominantly affects the upper two chambers of the heart that pump blood to the lower ventricles.

Treatment is mostly recommended for people who develop persistent symptoms. Thus, a few crucial lifestyle and dietary changes can reduce the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

Given below is a list of foods to avoid for those with atrial fibrillation:

  • Salt
    A salty diet increases the chances of one suffering from high blood pressure, which in itself is one of the primary triggers of atrial fibrillation. Note that the body naturally maintains a delicate balance of sodium in the bloodstream and excess salt disrupts this delicate balance putting more than necessary pressure on the blood vessels. A prolonged risk of high blood pressure increases the odds of atrial fibrillation significantly. So, it’s time to put some serious restrictions on one’s salt intake. In place of salt, one can always substitute natural flavors and spices to ensure that the food does not taste bland.
  • Alcohol consumption
    Alcohol can trigger an irregular rhythm of the heart that can result in atrial fibrillation. Severe binge drinking or regular consumption of alcohol highly increases the risk of atrial fibrillation in men and women. For men, research shows that having more than 35 drinks a week can significantly increase the risk of being diagnosed with this condition. Women, who have two drinks per day, have a 60% chance of suffering from atrial fibrillation unexpectedly in comparison to nondrinkers.
  • Caffeine intake
    Coffee is an active stimulant. So, excessive consumption of coffee or caffeine-related products can trigger atrial fibrillation. It may not be a direct trigger, but it can increase the risk significantly due to persistent consumption. Having coffee in moderation is fine, but one must reduce the quantity of caffeine-based products to get things under control. This also includes avoiding beverages like energy drinks, soft drinks, and flavored sodas, to name a few.
  • Processed and fatty foods
    Heavy intake of processed and fatty foods increases the risk of obesity and blood pressure, both conditions that affect heart health. Trans fats (found in most processed foods) can result in rapid weight gain. This can put pressure on the heart to pump blood more efficiently. Elevated blood pressure levels further complicate the efficiency of blood circulation, and all this combined can lead to atrial fibrillation.

Dietary changes to incorporate
It all comes down to planning a healthy atrial fibrillation-friendly diet. There are plenty of healthy alternatives that one can consider to replace the foods consumed on a daily basis. The new dietary regime will reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation significantly.

Mentioned below are foods that will help one combat this condition:

  • Foods rich in magnesium
    Studies suggest that low levels of magnesium may trigger atrial fibrillation and result in an irregular heart rate. To avoid this, it is advisable to incorporate more nuts including almonds, cashews, and peanuts in one’s daily diet. Spinach, avocados, peanut butter, and even yogurt are excellent sources of magnesium to help supplement one’s daily requirements. Also, it is essential to eat whole grain foods in place of refined products to promote a well-balanced diet.
  • Foods rich in potassium
    The heart is made up of major muscle groups that are tasked with pumping fresh oxygenated blood throughout the body. So, it goes without saying that foods that help maintain muscle integrity are key to keeping the organ healthy. Potassium promotes the function of muscle contractions and expansions in the heart to pump blood more efficiently. Fruits and vegetables including bananas, apricots, oranges, avocados, sweet potatoes, beetroot, tomatoes, squash, and prunes are rich sources of potassium.

Given below is a list of diets that one can switch to in order to alleviate the symptoms of this condition:

  • Mediterranean diet
    Studies suggest that people who follow the Mediterranean diet show a significant reduction in the risk of atrial fibrillation. The diet focuses on whole foods and beverages that one can consume. There are fewer restrictions in this diet and it also allows for moderate consumption of coffee and tea.
  • Paleo diet
    Paleo diet follows a strict regime when it comes to foods one is allowed to consume. It excludes most foods that became popular when farming emerged. The diet focuses more on the foods that were eaten during the hunting and gathering period. These include a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and nuts.
  • Gluten-free diet
    A gluten-free diet completely eliminates any form of gluten, thus removing most foods that have been refined or processed. This healthy way of eating helps improve the body’s response to fight the chances of atrial fibrillation by following an elimination diet.

It is advisable to consult a medical professional in case the condition and symptoms persist. It is also important to be aware of one’s allergies before they start following a certain diet.