Foods to Avoid with Atrial Fibrillation

Allison Bush | Nov 11, 2013

Reviewed by Glenn Gandelman, M.D., M.P.H.

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Maintaining a healthy diet is important if you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or a-fib. The key to eating well is to avoid foods that raise your heart rate and your blood pressure.

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Caffeine is known to stimulate the body and can act as a trigger for atrial fibrillation. Since caffeine increases your heart rate, it may bring an a-fib episode or other heart arrhythmia.

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For some people, especially women, alcohol may serve as another trigger for causing an a-fib episode. Avoid drinking more than one drink a day if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition.

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Leafy greens

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If you’re taking warfarin–a prescription blood thinner–you need to be careful about consuming leafy green vegetables. Leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and asparagus, have high levels of vitamin K, which can interfere with how warfarin works.

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Salt raises your blood pressure, and high blood pressure increases your chance of experiencing atrial fibrillation symptoms. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day if you have high blood pressure.

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A recent study published in the British Heart Journal suggests that foods that contain the compound tyramine may raise your blood pressure and bring on a-fib symptoms. Foods that include tyramine include cured meats, aged cheeses, fermented cabbage and fava beans.

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High fat foods

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People living with a-fib should avoid eating foods high in saturated fat, like butter and cheese; trans fats, found in margarine; and, cholesterol, found in meats and dairy.

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Low potassium

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Conversely, people living with a-fib should try to eat foods that are high in potassium, like bananas, root vegetables, and prunes. Low potassium levels may increase your risk of arrhythmia.

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Grapefruit juice

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Grapefruit juice contains a chemical called naringenin, which can interfere with the effectiveness of antiarrhythmic drugs like amiodarone (Cordarone) and dofetilide (Tikosyn).

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Multivitamins may interfere with the drug warfarin and may require an adjustment of the dosage of warfarin if taken.

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Refined grains

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To prevent stroke, it’s recommended that people with a-fib eat fiber-rich foods, like barley, oats, and brown rice. However, compared to whole grains, refined grains like white bread, white rice and regular pasta, contain very little fiber, protein, and other nutrients.