Atrial fibrillation is scary for patients and physicians alike. And I don’t want to scare you, but it drastically boosts your risk for stroke.
Now that that’s out of the bag, I can level with you: you’re not doomed. Although atrial fibrillation has no cure, there is action you can take to reduce your risk of stroke and help keep the dangers of your condition at bay.
First off, however, let’s examine how atrial fibrillation (a-fib) increases the risk of a stroke. As an abnormal heart rhythm, the condition presents several challenges to the cardiovascular system. These can result in some pretty scary symptoms like feeling winded or short of breath, dizziness, and inexplicable fatigue. These symptoms don’t just feel scary: the reality is that a-fib can lead to blood clots, thereby boosting the risk of a stroke or heart failure.
You can’t correct your abnormal heart rhythm, but you can focus on other factors that reduce the risk of stroke. Exercising at a pace you’re comfortable with for about 20–30 minutes per day is a great place to start. If you don’t have the stamina or time to do it all at once, spread it out over two or three sessions during the day. Simple adjustments like parking further from entrances, walking for errands you may otherwise drive to, or joining a walking club can all help you squeeze in more activity.
Eating more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods as an alternative to processed foods can also lower the risk of stroke. I wouldn’t say there are any specific foods to eat but focus on including items commonly found in the Mediterranean or DASH diets.
Lastly, doing your best to manage blood pressure can also help reduce the risk of stroke and limit the potential damage of an irregular heartbeat.
At the end of the day, it’s all about lowering the potential impact of your condition. If you can find other ways to improve and manage heart health, you can hopefully reduce your chance of experiencing a severe cardiovascular event.