How to Manage Atrial Fibrillation

by Allison Bush Editor

Understanding atrial fibrillation will allow you to communicate your needs to your family, friends, and health care providers. Knowing how to manage atrial fibrillation will empower you to live your life healthier, happier, and with less worry.

heart in coffee

Avoid stimulants

Stimulants — even too much coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate — can speed up your heart rate even more. Also, beware of over-the-counter medicines, including nutritional supplements and cold and allergy medicines. Drugs may contain stimulants or have other properties that can trigger arrhythmias and/or interact with your prescription medications. Source:

obese male

Maintain a healthy weight

Extra weight places a stress on the heart that can manifest as atrial fibrillation. It turns out that obesity can actually change the size of the heart’s atria, with a gradual increase in atrial size occurring as body weight increases from normal, to overweight, to obese. Source:

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Minimize stress

Even people who are generally healthy and have no known heart problems may develop atrial fibrillation due to high stress. Contemporary research suggests that approximately 54 percent of patients with intermittent atrial fibrillation cite psychological stress as the most common trigger. Source: American Heart Association

back self of bar through ripple glass

Limit alcohol

In excess, alcohol is toxic to the heart. Also dangerous are hangovers, which are associated with dehydration and an increase in stress hormones, which can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. Source:

cigarette butt in ashtray

Stop smoking

Nicotine is a cardiac stimulant and can aggravate atrial fibrillation by temporarily making the heart race. Cigarette smoking is also a known risk factor for coronary artery disease. Source: American Heart Association

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Manage your cholesterol

Heart problems like atherosclerosis (clogged, hardened arteries) and high cholesterol can worsen atrial fibrillation and put you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Stick to a low-fat, plant-based diet and exercise daily to keep your levels under control.

sleeping man

Chronic conditions

Atrial fibrillation is often resulting from another ongoing condition. Conditions like sleep apnea and hyperthyroidism are two serious conditions that, left untreated, can cause atrial fibrillation. AF is about 5 times greater in people with apnea. Hyperthyroidism can cause chemical imbalances that lead to electrical imbalances in your heart, triggering atrial fibrillation.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.