Atrial Fibrillation Series:
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was a nutritional strategy developed by the American Heart Association almost 30 years ago and remains one of the most effective non-pharmacological ways of improving many aspects of cardiac disease. While a more comprehensive explanation of the DASH diet can be found HERE, the general recommendations of the diet include high amounts of fruits, vegetables, fish, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, with restrictions of calories, saturated fats, salt/sodium and sugar. There are many great resources available on the web, as well as books like the American Heart Association’s No-Fad Diet.
If you are also diabetic, there are other important nutritional considerations on top of the DASH diet. It is important to eat meals at regular intervals, preferably no more than 6 hours apart. This can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Furthermore, limiting sugary foods and drinks can also help to lower blood sugar. If you have diabetes, you may be eligible for nutritional counselling from a dietitian which can help generate personalized plans and strategies to incorporate into your day-to-day life.
As mentioned before, one of the biggest risks with atrial fibrillation is that is can result in an increased risk of stroke. Strokes occur when blood clots formed in the heart reach the brain and cause damage. The process of coagulation is very complex and involves many proteins interacting with each other in biochemical feedback loops. Vitamin K can play a role in this process, interacting with some of the proteins that form blood clots.
Vitamin K is found naturally in many foods like leafy-greens (like kale and spinach) and vegetables. Certain blood thinners like warfarin (or coumarin/coumadin) work in opposition to Vitamin K. If you are on one of this type of blood thinners, it is important to ensure that your intake of Vitamin K remains more consistent.
The management of atrial fibrillation involves carefully balancing the risk of blood clots (which can lead to stroke) and bleeding; if your intake of Vitamin K is too high or is variable, then you may be at an increased risk of stroke. Alternatively, too high a dose of blood thinners may result in increased bleeding.
To avoid these risks, try to ensure your intake of Vitamin K is consistent from day-to-day. Talk to your physician about what foods or supplements you typically eat or take, and if you are prescribed blood thinners like warfarin, make sure to keep up to date with any changes in the dosage from visit-to-visit.
Exercise is safe and helpful in many patients with atrial fibrillation. Make sure to clear your ability to exercise with you physician before starting any high intensity exercise. In general, it is advisable to build up gradually: start by walking for 5 to 15 minutes each day, and build up over time to 30 minutes each day.
Find out what your target heart rate should be and monitor continue to your heart rate using fitness and exercise trackers. If your heart rate is too high, you may experience more symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Stop exercising immediately if you experience severe pain, palpitations, extreme breathlessness (dyspnea) or exhaustion. If you have prolonged chest pain that continues to persist after stopping, call 911.
Always remember to stay hydrated, to stretch and to warm-up for about 10 minutes before starting to exercise.
If you are on a blood thinner, avoid exercises or activities which involve higher degrees of risk (like bike riding) as you may have an increased risk of bleeding.
Find out if you are eligible to join a supervised cardiac rehabilitation class which can help with your treatment. Exercise will help you to feel better, lose weight, lead a better life and overall feel more energetic!
Apr 22, 2017 Healthy Heart Day
Cambridge Cardiac Care is located in the heart of Waterloo Region in downtown Cambridge.
Cambridge Cardiac Care serves patients throughout southwestern Ontario, including Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph, Brantford, Paris, Fergus, Elora, Elmira, Owen Sound, Kincardine, and Stratford.