While there are many ways to treat atrial fibrillation – the best course of action, if you are worried about your heart health, is to consult your GP. In particular, you should speak to your GP if you notice a sudden change in your resting heart rate, if it is below 60 beats per minute or over 100 beats per minute and especially if you are having other symptoms of atrial fibrillation such as dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness.
Other than using medicines or undergoing medical procedures, you can improve your heart health by making long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle.
How should I change my life?
Regular, moderate exercise is a good way for most people to decrease the risk of heart disease as it helps to regulate biological rhythms, helps with weight control and improves your mood and sleep. You should always speak to your doctor or a qualified healthcare professional before starting any exercise program.
Consuming alcohol is associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Low to moderate alcohol consumption may not necessarily cause major issues, but excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided. If low to moderate alcohol consumption triggers atrial fibrillation, it’s advised to avoid alcohol altogether.
An active lifestyle matched with a healthy diet is vital when it comes to managing your heart health. Cutting out foods that are highly processed or high in fat is recommended, for example by transitioning to the Mediterranean diet. If you have high blood pressure it’s also recommended to lower your salt intake.
Stress and obesity are linked to the development of atrial fibrillation. It is advised to minimise stress levels through various techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation or yoga. Both regular, moderate exercise and a healthy diet can contribute to better weight management which can help prevent or manage atrial fibrillation. Measure your height and weight, calculate your BMI and aim to reduce it to less than 25. Weight loss is gradual so this may take a long time but stick at it!
Smoking lowers the oxygen levels in the blood and makes the heart beat faster, while caffeine can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. As a result, it’s advised to stop smoking altogether (which will also improve your lung health) and limit caffeine to no more than 2-3 cups a day to better manage your heart health.
Will I be able to get travel insurance if I have atrial fibrillation?
Most patients that have atrial fibrillation can obtain travel insurance. Travel insurance policies normally include medical coverage. However, you may have to pay higher premiums as some insurance policies won’t cover pre-existing heart conditions. Most travel insurers will need to know if you’ve suffered from any heart conditions in the past, regardless of how long ago it was.
It is advised to compare policies from a number of travel insurance companies in order to identify whether they ensure travellers with existing heart conditions to ensure you’re covered.
Where can I get more advice and support?
You should always consult your GP when it comes to your general and heart health. Alternatively, you can consult a cardiologist or other medical specialist if you already have a pre-existing heart condition and have been referred to one.