A “cardiac arrhythmia” is the medical term used to describe an irregular heartbeat. Most of us know that our bodies need a heart that has a regular, rhythmic beat. If our heartbeats become irregular, we risk having severe health issues – or worse.
Our hearts are just one part of a complex set of components in the body’s electrical system. The heart powers other organs and makes it possible for us to survive. Many things in life need a constant rhythmic function to work. Examples include things like cars and machines.
There are many different types of cardiac arrhythmia, one of which is atrial fibrillation. This is a common type of irregular heartbeat. What happens is the upper chamber of the heart contracts in an irregular beat.
Atrial fibrillation itself isn’t life threatening as sometimes the symptoms could only be temporary. Persistent AF, on the other hand, is a different story. This is where the upper part of the heart doesn’t have a rhythmic beat for seven or more days. When that happens, problems such as strokes and heart failure can occur.
The news isn’t all bad, of course. It’s possible to prevent atrial fibrillation by making a few positive lifestyle changes. Want to know what you should be doing? Keep reading to find out more!
Stop eating salty foods
Many of us know that having excessive amounts of salt in our diets is bad for us. Yet, some people find it hard to keep their salt intakes down. What’s worse is that many of us don’t even realize how much salt we consume each day.
The shocking truth is that some supposed “healthy” packaged foods contain lots of salt. So, why is salt such a bad thing when talking about cardiac arrhythmias and persistent AF? Well, it is a well-known fact that salt increases your rate of blood pressure. And high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of atrial fibrillation.
If you tend to buy a lot of packaged food, what you should do is check the salt content of them. The nutrition labels on each item you buy will tell you how much salt gets contained in the food. It’ll also tell you what percentage of your recommended daily intake it is.
Another thing you could do is avoid buying packaged foods. Most food manufacturers use salt as a preservative and to add taste. You could start preparing your meals and snacks from raw ingredients at home. That way, you’ll have more control over your salt intake.
Make sure you get an annual flu shot
Believe it or not, your flu shot can help prevent cardiac arrhythmias! What you might not know is that influenza can be devastating for people with a weakened heart. That’s why it is crucial you get your annual flu shot.
You may not realize it, but some viral diseases (like the flu) can spread to heart muscles and tissue. Influenza can also cause fever and dehydration, two things that add stress to your heart. It’s worth speaking to your doctor and finding out when you should get your flu shot each year.
Eat more fish
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan you should probably ignore this section. Otherwise, you may wish to increase your intake of fish in your diet! The thing about fish like tuna is that they contain a lot of unsaturated fat.
In case you wondered, unsaturated fat is a “good” type of fat to consume in your diet. In controlled measures, of course! Scientific studies have shown that it helps to prevent atrial fibrillation. You don’t need to go crazy and eat lots of fish each day! You only need to consume fish a couple of times a week.
To make the most of those unsaturated fats, avoid frying the fish you want to eat. Instead, boil, grill or steam it.
Take it easy on the caffeine
One thing that people with irregular heartbeats need to do is keep an eye on their caffeine intake. That’s because it acts as a stimulant to the heart and it can trigger atrial fibrillation. As you can imagine, drinking lots of coffee each day is a huge risk factor!
What’s more, plenty of other drinks also contain caffeine – not just coffee. You’ll often find it in beverages like tea, cola and energy drinks. Even some cold and flu medication contains caffeine. Are you worried you have to give up drinking your cup of Joe each day?
If so, the good news is that you can buy coffee that doesn’t contain caffeine in it. To be honest, you will hardly notice a difference in taste with decaffeinated coffee. Or whatever beverage you like to consume each day.
Cut down your meat intake
Another change to your diet that you should consider making is cutting down your meat consumption. If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, this won’t apply to you for obvious reasons! But, if you enjoy having a steak or two each week, this section is for you.
No-one is saying you need to give up eating meat completely, of course. But there is plenty of medical research to prove that eating too much meat is bad for your heart.
Why? Because animal-based foods like meat contain a hell of a lot of saturated fats. These are the “bad” fats that you shouldn’t be consuming in your diet. Saturated fats contribute to heart disease and strokes.
Limit your alcohol consumption
Another one of the leading causes of atrial fibrillation is excess alcohol consumption. You may not know this but drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. If you suffer from persistent AF, this is bad news!
The government has guidelines on how much alcohol you should consume each day. But, it’s worth talking to your doctor about this. Alcohol affects people in different ways. That’s because we all have different heights and weights. Some of us can have a more negative impact from excess alcohol than others.
Perhaps the best thing you could do is give up drinking alcohol altogether. But, if you enjoy drinking in social settings, you may find this too hard to do. Again, talk to your doctor about this.
Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet
Do you spend most of your time eating junk food? Maybe you just don’t have the time to eat anything healthy? Well, if you don’t want to suffer heart problems, you need to make the time!
It’s essential that you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables each day. Not only will doing so help you keep your weight down, but you’ll also have a healthy heart. Fruit and vegetables contain an array of nutrients, vitamins and fiber. Plus, if you eat lots of fruit and vegetables you won’t go over your calorie limit each day.
There are thousands of different fruits and vegetables that you can eat. I would be here all day if I listed them all out for you! The best thing to do is stick with the ones that you like eating the most.
Feel free to be adventurous and try out some new ones. You never know; you might love eating them! I recommend sticking with fruit and vegetables that have a low calorific value.
Give up smoking
To some, quitting smoking is both a controversial and hard choice to make. Thousands of studies show how bad smoking is for anyone’s health.
Smoking is the leading cause of cancer, for a start. There are many toxic chemicals found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. If you’re a heavy smoker, you also run the risk of permanent damage to your heart.
You also increase your chances of having a heart attack and chronic pulmonary disease. The nicotine in cigarettes is also a no-no for people suffer from atrial fibrillation. That’s because it’s a stimulant that increases your heart rate and irritates heart muscles.
There’s also the fact your clothes and belongings will always smell of cigarette smoke! By giving up smoking, you will give your heart – and body – a fighting chance. You’ll also be better off financially too!
Learn different ways of cooking your food
Last, but not least, you should consider changing the way you cook your meals at home. Many of you will no doubt fry your foods. But, as you can imagine, that’s one of the worst ways of cooking food for health reasons.
The last thing you want to do is fatten up your otherwise healthy meals. Consider boiling, roasting or grilling things instead. Here are some top tips that will help you get started:
- Steam vegetables to lock in their natural flavors. Don’t cover them with butter or salt;
- If you need to fry anything, use unsaturated oils like olive oil instead of butter and lard;
- Don’t cook your fries in a fryer. Consider using a device that cooks them using steam and heat from a halogen element.