Three tips to prevent or reverse atrial fibrillation
By John D Day MD
May 21, 2013
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
We are truly witnessing an epidemic in atrial fibrillation (“A-fib”). In fact, one in four adults in the U.S. now will experience at least one episode of A-fib in their lifetime
What is atrial fibrillation? A-fib is the most common heart rhythm abnormality. Typically, the heart beat very rapid and chaotic which can lead to chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness.
Why should we worry about atrial fibrillation? The biggest worry with A-fib is that it increases the risk of stroke five fold, doubles the risk of heart failure, doubles the risk of premature death, and doubles the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease! The key to preventing these long-term complications is to maintain normal rhythm.
What causes atrial fibrillation? Certainly genetics plays a role but the big three causes of A-fib are age, high blood pressure, and obesity. Most cases of A-fib, just like other forms of heart disease, are completely preventable. Indeed, studies have shown that 80% of heart disease is totally preventable. While we can’t do anything about our age or genetics, we can take control of our lifestyles and make sure our blood pressure is under control and that we maintain an ideal body weight. As two-thirds of all Americans are now overweight is it any wonder why atrial fibrillation has become so commonplace. It should be noted that sleep apnea is also a big cause of A-fib. However, for most patients, sleep apnea is just a consequence of obesity. If we can lose the weight the sleep apnea will likely go away as well.
What should we do if we have atrial fibrillation? The most critical thing to do is to make sure we are protected against having a stroke. Patients with A-fib and multiple risk factors for stroke will need to be treated with a potent blood thinner. For those without multiple additional risk factors for stroke an aspirin may be enough.
Medications, shocking the heart back into rhythm, or even a procedure to potentially cure atrial fibrillation, called a catheter ablation, may be necessary. Recently, we published a large study of thousands and thousands of patients at Intermountain Healthcare where we showed for the first time that an outpatient catheter ablation procedure for atrial fibrillation was not only able to eliminate A-fib in most patients but was also able to eliminate the increased risk of death, strokes, and dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease that comes from A-fib
Certainly, with A-fib, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure! I have listed below 3 tips to prevent or even reverse atrial fibrillation. In giving these tips, I am assuming that you are not smoking, as smoking is the number one cause of preventable heart problems.
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