What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF) – Everything You Need to Know

Find in-depth information on atrial fibrillation, get the facts and learn how it impacts your stroke risk.

The heart is a muscular organ with an important function.

What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF) – Everything You Need to Know
An irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow. Shutterstock Images

However, your heart is prone to various conditions and diseases that impair its functionality.

While some of these conditions are well-known to most people, others not so much.

‘Atrial fibrillation’ is a heart-related condition that is largely misunderstood and the purpose of this post is to elucidate and provide the basic info you should know about atrial fibrillation especially if you or someone you know the deal with this heart issue.

What is “Atrial Fibrillation”?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is defined as an irregular and often fast heart rate and the most common form of arrhythmia.

The term “arrhythmia” refers to any change from the normal sequence of electrical pulses.

These electrical impulses can be too fast, too slow, or erratically.

When your heart doesn’t beat properly, it is unable to pump blood adequately which can lead to various complications.

What happens when you have AFib?

Generally, the heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat.

However, in atrial fibrillation, the atria or the upper chambers quiver or beat irregularly.

Since your heart does not beat properly various complications can occur.

For example, if clots break off, enter the bloodstream, and lodge in an artery leading to the brain.

In this case, a person experiences a stroke.

Atrial fibrillation has had a rich history and contributed to the careers of numerous scientists and physicians.

Ever since prehistoric times, physicians have been fascinated by the pulse of patients according to the paper ‘The History of Atrial Fibrillation: The Last 100 Years’ published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology[1].

The chaotic irregularity of arterial pulse was acknowledged[2] by most physicians in the ancient Greece, China, and Egypt.

William Harvey (English physician) was the first to describe the circulatory system properly and it is assumed he was also the first scholar to describe fibrillation of the auricles in animals.

In 1187, Moses Maimonides (a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher) wrote aphorisms that pertained to the human pulse.

Some of his writings contain descriptions of the irregular pulse that was most likely atrial fibrillation.

Besides Maimonides, the irregular pulse was also described by William Stokes (Irish physician), Karl Frederik Wenckebach (Dutch anatomist), and James MacKenzie (Scottish cardiologist).

MacKenzie carried out in-depth research of pulse tracings.

However, it wasn’t until Willem Einthoven (Dutch doctor and physiologist) invented electrocardiogram that the AFib was put on the “map”.

Einthoven and Sir Thomas Lewis (English cardiologist) did numerous studies and communicated constantly exchanging their ideas and discoveries on this subject.

Lewis discovered that the AFib affects the entire auricular surface with the excitation wave or its offshoots, and it has a varying path of excitation.

His discoveries about atrial fibrillation were so significant that Thomas Lewis is now considered as the father of modern electrocardiography.

In 1962, the very first cardioversion of arrhythmias in patients with AFib was carried out.

At this point, we know a lot about atrial fibrillation, but there’s still a lot to learn as well, which is why scientists carry out studies on this topic to provide more info that will help doctors create more effective treatments or help people cut down the risk effectively.

Atrial fibrillation

During heartbeat, the two upper chambers of the heart contract, followed by the two lower chambers. Shutterstock Images

Heart’s “Electrical System” without and with Afib

In order to understand atrial fibrillation entirely it is necessary to learn more heart’s electrical system.

As you already know, your heart’s electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat.

An electrical signal spreads from the top of the heart to bottom with each heartbeat.

As this signal travels, it makes the heart contract and pumps blood.

Every electrical signal is formed in a group of cells called the sinoatrial (SA) node or the sinus node.

The SA node is situated in the right atrium.

In a heart of healthy adult at rest, the SA node sends a message or electrical signal to start a new heartbeat 60 to 100 times a minute, in athletes this rate may be slower.

That’s a lot of work!

When SA node sends the electrical signal, it embarks on a journey through the right and left atria which, then, contract and pump the blood to ventricles.

After that, the electrical signal continues its journey reaches a group of cells called the atrioventricular (AV) node.

These cells are located between ventricles and atria, hence the name.

At this point, the electrical signal slows down in order to give enough time to ventricles to finish filling with blood.

Then, the electrical signal leaves the AV node and travels to the ventricles which contract and start pumping blood to the lungs and rest of your body.

Once this process is done, it is time for ventricles to relax and the entire heartbeat process starts again.

Not only this shows how the electrical system works, but it perfectly depicts the amount of work your heart does 24/7.

Okay, but how does this electrical system work in people with AFib?

The major difference here is that the electrical signals in people with AFib do not even start in SA node like in individuals with a healthy heart.

Where do they start then?

Electrical signals, in this case, being in a different part of atria or even in pulmonary veins nearby.

While you were reading how the electrical system functions in a healthy heart, it was easy to conclude that every part of the process is highly organized.

In atrial fibrillation signals do not travel properly, there is no order or organization which is why they, basically, spread throughout the atria fast, like they are in a hurry.

As a result, the atria fibrillate.

Since the beginning of the journey started on the “wrong foot”, then the rest of it faces the same issue.

The faulty signals reach AV node which is, then, flooded with electrical impulses.

Due to the fact that the electrical signal does not slow down here, like in normal case it would, ventricles start beating rapidly.

At the same time, AV node is incapable of sending these signals as fast as they arrive.

This leads to a problem! Although ventricles are beating very fast, that’s still not enough to catch up since atria are beating even faster.

As a result, atria and ventricles do not even beat in a coordinated manner which is why fast, irregular heart rhythm occurs.

In individuals with atrial fibrillation, ventricles may beat between 100 and 175 times a minute which is way higher than in a healthy heart.

Statistics and Prevalence of Atrial Fibrillation

In February 2014, the journal Circulation published findings from the 2010 study of global atrial fibrillation burden[3]. These were the key findings:

  • 33.5 million people in the world had atrial fibrillation in 2010
  • Of these, 20.9 million were men while 12.6 million were women
  • Burden associated with AFib, measured as disability-adjusted-life-years, increased by 18.8% in men and 18.9% in women since 1990
  • In 1990, the estimated age-adjusted prevalence rates of atrial fibrillation were 569.5 in men and 359.9 in women. On the other hand, the estimated age-adjusted incidence rates were 60.7 per 100,000 person-years in men and 43.8 in women
  • In 2010, the estimated age-adjusted prevalence rates of AFib increased to 596.2 in men and 373.1 in women, while age-adjusted incidence rates were 77.5 per 100,000 person-years in men and 59.5 in women
  • Mortality rates were higher in women and increased by two-fold since 1990

According to the CDC[4]:

  • Between 2.7 and 6.1 million people in the US have atrial fibrillation, but it is estimated this number will increase with the aging population
  • About 2% of adults younger than 65 have AFib
  • 9% of the US adults older than 65 have this type of arrhythmia
  • Each year, more than 750,000 hospitalizations occur due to AFib
  • About 130,000 death cases each year are attributed to the atrial fibrillation
  • The rates of AFib as a primary or contributing cause of death have been increasing for more than two decades
  • Atrial fibrillation costs the United States $6 billion each year
  • Total medical costs for people with AFib are $8705 higher than for individuals who don’t have this heart problem

What are the Causes of Atrial Fibrillation?

The primary cause of atrial fibrillation are the irregular electrical signals described above.

The question is: what contributes to those abnormalities?

Something has to trigger them, after all. Well, numerous factors can play a role in developing AFib.

Below, you can see some of them.

High Blood Pressure

Did you know that more than 75 million adults in the US have high blood pressure?

More precisely, that’s 32% of the entire population or 1 in 3 adults, according to the CDC.

High blood pressure or hypertension is a risk factor for numerous diseases and conditions including atrial fibrillation.

If your blood pressure is high and you don’t do anything about it, there is a strong chance of developing AFib.


It is because poorly controlled blood pressure induces changes in the heart’s structure that make it more prone to developing a rapid, erratic heartbeat.

Hypertension has the tremendous potential to damage the heart’s electrical system.

Blood Pressure Problem

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can affect your heartbeat. Shutterstock Images

Heart Failure

Heart failure and atrial fibrillation go hand in hand.

For example, heart failure can lead to AFib in numerous ways including elevation of cardiac filling pressures, dysregulation of intracellular calcium, as well as autonomic and neuroendocrine dysfunction.

On the other hand, atrial fibrillation can contribute to heart failure as well in different ways as well.

One of these ways is the increase in resting heart rate and the exaggerated heart rate response to exercise.

As a result, shorter diastolic filling time leads to a reduction in cardiac output.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is defined as a buildup of cholesterol and fat in the arteries that supply blood to your heart.

These deposits are called plaque and grow slowly, clogging the arteries.

In instances when an artery is severely clogged, blood flow to the heart is reduced, thus leading to chest pain or even a heart attack.

Due to this buildup and decreased blood flow, the electrical system in your heart changes and paves the way to AFib.

Abnormal Heart Valves

Heart valves are vital for adequate and healthy circulation because they regulate the direction your blood flows.

An important purpose of heart valves is to deliver much-needed oxygen to your body.

When they aren’t working properly, your heart, as well as other organs, are at risk of different complications.

Abnormalities affecting heart valves can impair heart rhythm and cause AFib.

Congenital Heart Defects

According to a study published in the journal Heart[5], atrial fibrillation occurs in 25% to 30% of patients with congenital heart defects.

Patients with residual left-sided obstructive lesions or unrepaired heart disease are more prone to develop atrial fibrillation.

Lung Diseases

The European Respiratory Journal[6] published findings from the study which only confirmed claims that lung diseases can contribute to the development of atrial fibrillation.

Scientists explained that reduced lung function is strongly associated with new-onset of AFib.

Their findings demonstrate the importance of electrocardiograms in patients with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Not only can lung diseases cause atrial fibrillation, but so can the medications used to treat some of them e.g. medications for asthma.

That is why patients with lung diseases are advised to inform their physician about the history of heart conditions in the family.

Other Causes that Contribute to Onset of Afib

  • Overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalances
  • Previous heart surgery
  • Sick sinus syndrome (a group of heart rhythm problems wherein the sinus node doesn’t work properly)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Viral infections

Before we move on to the symptoms of AFib, you should bear in mind that although these diseases and conditions can cause your heart issue to some extent, there are patients with atrial fibrillation who don’t have heart or lung disease.

In some cases, the exact cause can be unclear.

What is the Difference between Atrial and Ventricular Fibrillation?

Atrial and Ventricular Fibrillation

AFib & VFib, both heart condition affect the body differently. onlineresize.club

Regardless of the type, fibrillations are defined as abnormalities in heart rate and rhythm, but it’s important to know the difference between two common forms of this fibrillations:

  • atrial
  • ventricular

The first major difference between the two is in causation.

As you could see above, atrial fibrillation causes can oftentimes be unknown, while ventricular fibrillation primarily affects individuals with a prior history of a heart attack.

While AFib may or may not occur due to some other heart condition, the ventricular type is always a result of underlying damage to heart tissue or heart disease.

We can also differentiate ventricular and atrial fibrillation, by the way, they affect your body.

Atrial fibrillation isn’t dangerous by itself unless if left untreated.

On the other hand, ventricular fibrillations are life-threatening emergency cases.


It is because the ventricles of your heart are not pumping blood any longer.

As a result, blood pressure drops significantly and lead to fainting and sudden fatal cardiac arrest.

Another point of difference between these two forms of fibrillation is in the treatment approach.

We’ll discuss atrial fibrillation treatment in greater detail further in the article, but it usually depends on the severity of symptoms and cause of the AFib episodes.

In some cases, a patient needs medications only to feel better.

But, the only way to treat a heart that is experiencing ventricular fibrillation is to give an electrical shock through the process of defibrillation.

This technique stimulates the heart to restore normal rhythm.

Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation!

Although everyone can develop atrial fibrillation, some people are at a higher risk.

Let’s take a look at the risk factors[7] associated with this health problem:

  • Advancing age (people who are 60 or older are at a higher risk of developing AFib)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of atrial fibrillation
  • Heart disease
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Serious illness and infection
  • Stimulant use
Atrial Fibrillation

These are some risk factor of Atrial Fibrillation. pbs.twimg.com

“Afib” – Men vs. Women

Unlike some other conditions which affect primarily one gender, atrial fibrillation can affect both men and women, but men tend to be more prevalent.

In fact, AFib is the most frequent type of arrhythmia in both men and women, but there are some differences.

The median age for people diagnosed with AFib is 66.8 years for men and 74.6 years for ladies.

On average, women diagnosed with this heart problem are between 5 and 8 years older than men who are diagnosed for the first time.

Men, regardless of age, are more likely than women to develop atrial fibrillation.

That said since AFib primarily affects older individuals and due to the fact that there are more women than men above the age of 75, the total number of people with this condition in both genders is essentially the same.

Besides differences regarding the age of onset, the condition itself affects men and women differently.

For example, women usually struggle more with symptoms and it is not uncommon for them to report poorer quality of life than men.

Struggles women face aren’t over yet; ladies are more likely to experience complications associated with atrial fibrillation such as death or stroke.

A study from the BMJ[8] also found significant gender differences associated with AFib.

After adjustment for multiple confounders, atrial fibrillation was strongly associated with a 12% higher risk of all-cause mortality in women compared to men in the 1-to-26-year follow-up.

Shockingly, AFib was related to almost twofold higher stroke risk and cardiovascular mortality in women than in men.

At this point, it is unclear why women experience more severe symptoms and are at a higher risk of developing different complications compared to men.

However, it is believed that women could be undertreated or they respond differently to oral anticoagulants.

What are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?


Atrial Fibrillation symptoms often include chest pain. Shutterstock Images

It is not uncommon for individuals with atrial fibrillation to be unaware they have irregular heart rhythm or any problem because they experience no symptoms i.e. the condition can be asymptomatic.

In their case, the doctor usually discovers AFib during the regular physical exam.

When symptoms do occur or in cases when individuals do feel something’s wrong, they usually include:

  • Angina (chest pain due to decreased blood flow to the heart muscles)
  • Confusion
  • Decreased ability to exercise
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Palpitations (sensations of an uncomfortable, racing, irregular heartbeat i.e. flip-flopping in your chest)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweat
  • Weakness

It is crucial to see your doctor if you experience symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

Also, if you have a history of heart, lung disease or if you’re in advanced age going for regular checkups at the doctor’s office is always recommended, and a great way to detect conditions like AFib early.

Types of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is very common and it is associated with different symptoms.

However, not every individual experience this condition equally.

In fact, there are different types of AFib[9], and you can find out more about them below.

Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation occurs from time to time and stops on its own and heart rhythm returns to normal.

Doctors refer to it as the “holiday heart syndrome” because it tends to occur in otherwise healthy individuals who may be celebrating, having a few extra drinks, and so on.

Why does it happen to healthy people?

The reason is simple, the heart may not be used to that activity (late nights, excessive alcohol consumption) and goes into AFib.

The AFib “episode” may last between a few minutes and a few hours, but individuals who have this type of atrial fibrillation tend to experience more symptoms than those affected by other types.

This type of AFib can be overlooked or misdiagnosed since symptoms can be attributed to an advanced age, poor fitness levels, or overweight/obesity.

Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

Unlike in paroxysmal AFib, in persistent type, the atrial fibrillation doesn’t go away on its own and usually lasts longer than a week.

Patients affected by this require treatment via medications or electric shock in order to achieve normal heart rhythm

Permanent Atrial Fibrillation

As you probably assumed based on its name, this type of AFib can’t restore the heart rhythm to normal even with treatment that works for the persistent AFib.

It lasts longer than 12 months and your doctor may recommend some medications to lower your risk of stroke, heart attack and so on.

To sum up, here’s how long each atrial fibrillation type lasts:

  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation – 7 days or less (from a few minutes to a few hours)
  • Persistent atrial fibrillation – more than 7 days
  • Permanent atrial fibrillation – doesn’t go away

How is Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?

Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed

An electrocardiogram helps to diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation. Shutterstock Images

In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may review signs and symptoms, medical history, and do a physical exam.

Of course, it is crucial to inform your physician about all the symptoms you experience, regardless of how insignificant they may be.

Based on everything you say, your doctor probably suspects the heart problem you deal with is atrial fibrillation.

However, to make a correct diagnosis and rule out some other potential problems, the healthcare provider usually orders some tests[10].

They are:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) – Uses small sensors or electrodes attached to your arms and chest to record electrical signals while they travel through your heart. This test is the main tool for atrial fibrillation diagnosis
  • Event recorder – This is, basically, a portable ECG which is meant to monitor and record the heart activity during a specific period of time e.g. over a few weeks or months. The device isn’t activated at all times, you have to activate it only when experiencing rapid heart rate or other symptoms
  • Holter monitor – Yet another portable ECG device which a patient carries in the pocket, attached to shoulder strap or belt. Unlike an event recorder, this device monitors and records heart activity for 24 hours or longer.
  • Blood tests – Done primarily to rule out thyroid problems
  • Chest x-ray – Allows the physician to see the condition of your lungs and heart
  • Echocardiogram – Noninvasive test which uses sound waves to produce a video image of a patient’s heart. The doctor sees your heart in motion and is able to detect underlying structural heart disease. Here, sound waves are directed at the heart from a transducer (wand-like device) held on your chest. Another version of this test is carrying out echocardiogram by inserting a flexible tube with the transducer and guiding it down the throat into the esophagus. This test is quite useful for discovering blood clots
  • Stress test – Running tests on a person’s heart when he/she is running

Once you do the tests, your doctor is ready to make the diagnosis. If you have atrial fibrillation, the physician will recommend adequate treatment to keep everything under control.

How is Atrial Fibrillation Treated?

The type of treatment that is suitable for you depends on factors such as:

  • Underlying cause of atrial fibrillation
  • How long you’ve been experiencing AFib
  • Severity of symptoms

Based on your condition, the doctor recommends an appropriate treatment whose goal is, usually, to prevent blood clots and reset the heart rhythm or control the rate.

In instances when atrial fibrillation occurs due to an underlying medical problem such as thyroid disorder, then treating that condition can also help manage heart rhythm issues.

Below, you can see the most common treatments doctors recommend to patients with atrial fibrillation.

Resetting Heart’s Rhythm

Treating atrial fibrillation requires resetting heart rate and rhythm back to normal.

To accomplish that goal, doctors perform cardioversion which is carried out in two ways:

  • Cardioversion with drugs – here, the doctor prescribes medications called antiarrhythmics to restore normal heart rhythm. These medications can be intravenous or oral and the doctor usually recommends them bearing in mind your overall heart condition
  • Electrical cardioversion – the physician delivers an electrical shock to the heart through patches or paddles attached to your chest. The shock momentarily stops your heart’s electrical processes so that the normal rhythm can resume once the heart starts again. Don’t worry about the shock as this procedure is performed under anesthesia so you, essentially, won’t feel anything

You may be given blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Jantoven, Coumadin) several weeks before cardioversion.

The purpose of these drugs is to decrease the risk of blood clots and, subsequently, stroke.

It is also worth noting that unless the AFib episode lasted less than 48 hours, you will have to take warfarin for about four weeks after cardioversion.

This will prevent blood clots even when your heart rhythm and heart rate return back to normal.

Maintaining Healthy Heart Rhythm

Maintaining Healthy Heart Rhythm

Medicine can help you to maintain healthy heart rhythm. Shutterstock Images

To prevent future episodes of atrial fibrillation, your doctor usually prescribes anti-arrhythmic drugs, such as:

  • Amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone)
  • Dofetilide (Tikosyn)
  • Flecainide
  • Propafenone (Rythmol)
  • Sotalol (Betapace, Sorine)

Some people may have to use these medications indefinitely.

Despite the fact they can restore heart rate to normal, anti-arrhythmic medications are also linked to side effects like nausea, fatigue, and dizziness.

Control of Heart Rate

To control heart rate and restore it back to normal, the physician may prescribe medications such as digoxin (Lanoxin) which does a great job controlling heart rate at rest, but not as effective when you are physically active.

A vast majority of patients with AFib also need additional drugs or alternative medications like beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers.

However, all medications carry certain risks of side effects and these aren’t the exception.

For example, beta-blockers are associated with hypotension (lower blood pressure) and worsening of heart failure.

Surgical Procedures

In cases when standard treatments don’t help, your doctor may recommend surgical procedures to destroy an area of heart tissue which causes erratic behavior of electric signals.

The goal of these procedures is to help your heart rate normalize once again.

Surgical procedure options include the following:

  • Atrioventricular (AV) node ablation – the AV node ablation is primarily suitable for individuals who experience side effects to other treatments or in instances when catheter ablation (described below) doesn’t work and if you aren’t a good candidate for some other treatments. During the procedure, your physician applies radiofrequency energy to the pathway connecting the atria and ventricles of the AV node through a catheter in a bid to destroy this tissue area. As a result, atria don’t send electrical impulses to the ventricles, but it continues to fibrillate. To ensure ventricles are beating adequately, a pacemaker is implanted.
  • Catheter ablation – the doctor inserts thin and long tubes called catheters into your groin and guides them to your heart through the blood vessels. Catheter tips feature electrodes which use radiofrequency energy, cryotherapy (cold) or heat in a bid to destroy rapidly discharging triggers or hot spots that cause atrial fibrillation. Catheter electrodes scar the tissue to normalize erratic signals. With this procedure, it is possible to correct arrhythmia without implanting devices or medications
  • Surgical maze procedure – it is carried out during open heart surgery. Doctors create several precise incisions in the heart’s upper chambers to create a pattern of scar tissue. Although the procedure has a high success rate, atrial fibrillations can still occur again

Blood Clots Prevention

People with AFib as well as those who are undergoing some treatment for this condition have higher odds of getting blood clots which cause numerous complications e.g. stroke.

Your risk of developing blood clots is even higher if you also happen to have some other heart condition along with AFib.

To prevent blood clots and complications that come with them, your doctor will probably prescribe medications such as warfarin or newer anticoagulants.

New blood-thinning drugs don’t require monitoring and are shorter acting compared to warfarin.

AFib Prevention

Atrial Fibrillation increase your chance of developing blood clots. Shutterstock Images

What to do When Experiencing Afib Episode?

Here are some things you can do when experiencing atrial fibrillation episode:

  • Drink a glass of water as dehydration can sometimes contribute to AFib
  • Wash your face with cold water which will help you feel better and even breathe more easily
  • Eat a banana, this popular fruit is rich in potassium which regulates blood pressure
  • Eat pumpkin seeds, they are abundant in magnesium which is essential for a healthy heartbeat. If there are no pumpkin seeds, you can go for hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, cashews, etc.
  • Some people find relief when they lie down and try to relax, but there are also those who find that doing a little exercise is beneficial too. This makes the heart beat faster and then slow down. You’ll have to find which option suits you or consult your doctor about this subject
  • Do belly breathing by getting seated comfortably and relaxing, then breathe through the nose and count to four while slowly filling your belly. Then, exhale through nose or mouth while counting to four again. Make sure you are breathing deep into your stomach, not chest.

Self-Management and Prevention!!!

Adhering to doctor’s instructions is the key to treat atrial fibrillation and reduce the risk of future episodes, blood clots, and complications.

This is particularly important for women who, as seen above, experience more severe symptoms and complications of AFib than men.

You should bear in mind that you can have a normal, active life even if you have atrial fibrillation.

Of course, it is highly recommended to keep all your medical appointments.

Don’t assume that just because you feel okay you should skip the appointment and avoid seeing your doctor regularly.

Besides doctor-recommended treatments for AFib, making certain lifestyle modifications can be of huge help to manage or prevent this condition.

For example:

  • Exercise regularly – although you probably assume you should stop exercising because you have AFib, that’s not a wise decision. In fact, physical activity helps patients with atrial fibrillation[11] decrease resting pulse rate and improve overall quality of life
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet – the nutrition plays an important role in management and prevention of AFib. Ideally, you should limit or avoid consumption of alcohol, junk food, and other food items known for adverse impact on heart health. It is also important to reduce salt intake as well but eat more fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and so on
  • Quit smoking – this unhealthy habit can severely impact your health as it is a major contributor to numerous diseases and health conditions. Current and former smoking are strongly associated[12] with increased risk of atrial fibrillation. This happens in many ways; smoking is bad for your lungs and constricts blood vessels thus increasing blood pressure. Therefore, working to quit smoking can have a beneficial impact on your condition and it is needless to mention you’ll have a healthier lifestyle
  • Maintain weight in a healthy range – being overweight or obese puts you at a greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation. On the other hand, weight loss helps you manage your condition more effectively or prevent it from occurring in the first place. In one study, obese AFib patients who lost at least 10% of their body weight were six times more likely to achieve long-term freedom from this condition
  • Regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels – make sure you take your medications to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure regularly. It is recommended to check these factors so that both you and your doctor have a clear insight into your condition. Make necessary adjustments to avoid hypertension and high cholesterol
  • Manage stress – since unresolved stress can also impair your heart’s rhythm, you should find a unique way to manage it. As much as we try, stress isn’t something you can avoid, but there are many things you can do to keep it under your control. Exercise, reading, listening to music, writing, just about anything can help you de-stress

To prevent future AFib episodes you should:

  • Manage stress
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get your blood pressure in a healthy range, you can purchase cuff to monitor it yourself
  • Establish a regular sleep pattern i.e. go to bed every night at the same time, wake up every morning at the same time as well
  • Take a walk a few times during the day
  • Adhere to Mediterranean diet, known for heart-healthy benefits
  • Limit intake of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats
  • Avoid a cough and cold medicines that contain stimulants.


Atrial fibrillation causes irregular, erratic heart rhythm and rate, but in some cases, it can lead to more serious complications.

It is important to consult your doctor, adhere to the treatment, and make necessary lifestyle changes to prevent future episodes.

View All