Lifestyle and Atrial Fibrillation

by Charles Katzenberg, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine (retired) at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center

Some risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation are similar to those for cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke:

  1. Hypertension
  2. Obesity
  3. Lack of regular exercise - strive for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, or 150 minutes per week.
  4. Stress - be aware that an underappreciated stress sensation may be present due to home, work, financial matters as well as depression, loss and lack of control.
  5. Smoking and COPD
  6. Diabetes - a 50 percent risk reduction is possible with aggressive diet modifications; go plant-based as much as possible.
  7. Age

Other risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation:

  1. Hyperthyroidism - should always be checked for atrial fibrillation patients.
  2. Sleep apnea
  3. Pulmonary emboli
  4. Illness or  surgical procedure
  5. Heart diseases (valves, conduction system, coronary arteries, pericardium, or muscle)
  6. Low levels of sodium, potassium, magnesium (diuretics)
  7. Alcohol abuse - heavy use is a risk; one or two drinks a day is not such a big risk.
  8. ‘Holiday Heart’ – overeating, binge alcohol, stress
  9. Heart Failure

Risk factors for having a recurrent episode of atrial fibrillation:

  1. Same as for developing atrial fibrillation
  2. Caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate)
  3. Alcohol

Warfarin and diet – green vegetables which contain unit Vitamin K can affect INR. Don’t avoid green leafy vegetables, but try to be regular in their intake, for example, one to two servings daily.

For more health information, please visit our  Heart Health page.

For physician appointment information, please call 520-MyHeart (694-3278).

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