If you’re over 40 and your heart flutters, there’s a good chance you’re one of the millions who suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF). This condition, which can cause the upper chambers of the heart to race for minutes, hours or days, is the product of a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system.
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Now, there’s good news that taking control of certain risk factors for heart disease may prevent AF or lessen its impact.
Why you should care
AF greatly raises the likelihood you’ll have a stroke and doubles the chance of dementia. It also increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or developing heart failure. And a pounding heart can be terrifying. Add these factors together, and preventing AF sounds like a good idea, indeed.
The power of weight loss
Obesity is major risk factor for AF. A new study found that AF often disappears in obese patients who lose weight. The more extra pounds they lose, the more likely their AF will resolve.
Change your life, protect your heart
High blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure and sleep apnea are other risk factors for AF. Recent studies have shown that aggressive, medically monitored lifestyle changes that significantly lower weight and blood pressure and improve blood sugar control can reduce the risk of developing AF. That’s better than trying to treat AF, say Cleveland Clinic researchers.
“The fact that current AF therapies are only partially effective makes the case for prevention particularly compelling,” says David Van Wagoner, PhD.
Be still, my heart
People who have AF and make the recommended lifestyle changes may stop the frightening episodes from occurring or, at minimum, reduce their frequency and duration.
Aggressive lifestyle changes may also improve the likelihood that AF will disappear after treatment of AF with ablation or surgery.
“Lifestyle changes just may have a more significant effect than any antiarrhythmic medication,” says Dr. Van Wagoner.
Although larger studies are underway to confirm this potentially life-changing finding, the same lifestyle changes designed to prevent AF have also been shown to improve overall health and sense of wellbeing.
That’s reason enough to make your heart flutter with joy!