The term atrial fibrillation (AFib) refers to irregular and, oftentimes, abnormally fast heart rate. Numbers show the worldwide prevalence of AFib is 37,574 million cases. Over the last 20 years, the prevalence of this condition increased by 33%. Countries with a high socioeconomic index tend to have the most cases, but the incidence of AFib also increased in nations with middle socioeconomic status. AFib isn’t life-threatening, but it can lead to various complications. So, the question is can AFib be reversed? How to do it? Read on to find out.
Is Atrial Fibrillation Reversible?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. You see, not all cases of atrial fibrillation stem from the same cause. Some of the possible causes of AFib are:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure);
- Coronary artery disease;
- Heart attack;
- Congenital heart defect;
- Abnormal heart valves;
- Hyperthyroidism or other metabolic imbalance;
- Sleep apnea;
- Viral infections;
- Lung diseases.
Generally speaking, everyone can develop AFib, but some people are at a higher risk. The most common risk factors include advancing age, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, family history, among others.
Some factors behind AFib are congenital, structural, and hereditary. In these cases, the disease is not reversible.
Reversible atrial fibrillation is secondary to a primary problem.
However, when AFib occurs due to an underlying condition, it’s possible to reverse it.
How to Reverse AFib?
Reversing AFib is an achievable goal. You need to see your doctor regularly and adhere to the treatment they recommended. You also need to make important lifestyle adjustments. We’re going to list them below.
Manage The Underlying Cause
The best way to reverse atrial fibrillation is to manage the underlying cause. Let’s say you have hyperthyroidism. Management of this thyroid condition is vital for the reversal of atrial fibrillation. Basically, you need to be proactive about the underlying cause behind AFib to reverse it.
Modify Your Diet
The food you eat can either help you tackle AFib or make it worse. Ideally, you should adopt a low-sodium diet and reduce your intake of fat. A heart-healthy diet, in general, is beneficial for persons with AFib. Consume healthy fats such as olive oil and enrich your menu with fruits and vegetables.
On the flip side, strive to cut down the intake of sugar, trans fats, and other compounds that jeopardize heart health.
Nicotine in tobacco products is a stimulant. Stimulants increase your heart rate. The logical solution here is to quit smoking if you are interested in reversing afib. Plus, smoking constricts blood vessels and may contribute to high blood pressure. All this can lead to an AFib event. While smoking cessation seems like a mission impossible, with strong willpower and persistence, you will succeed.
Limit Intake or Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol can trigger AFib episodes. Binge and heavy drinkers are more likely to experience this event. However, if you’re on the road to reverse AFib, the best thing to do is to lower alcohol intake or avoid it entirely.
Stress can increase blood pressure and trigger atrial fibrillation episodes. We can’t avoid stress in many situations, although we’d want that. What we can do is to manage it properly. Stress management can normalize blood pressure. Plus, by managing stress, you can reverse AFib. This is especially the case if you experience episodes due to stressful situations. It may be useful to see a therapist or your doctor who can teach you coping techniques. You may also want to take deep breaths when stressed out.
Lose Weight or Maintain It In a Healthy Range
Excess weight increases the risk of AFib.
Being overweight or obese makes you more likely to have hypertension and other problems that may lead to atrial fibrillation.
One of the most significant lifestyle changes for AFib reversal is weight loss. Or you may want to strive to maintain weight in a healthy range. Weight loss is an achievable goal that results from a well-balanced diet and regular exercise alongside a healthy lifestyle in general.
Regular physical activity helps you slim down and also allows you to normalize blood pressure. Even a simple training session or a brisk walk can improve your heart health. Strive to get about 30 minutes of exercise per session or 150 minutes a week.
Other Lifestyle Changes
Besides the abovementioned lifestyle tips, there are some other useful changes to adopt. If you want to know how to prevent AFib from returning, you may want to:
- Limit caffeine intake;
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control;
- Consult your doctor about medications and over-the-counter products that don’t contain stimulants;
- Manage sleep apnea, if you have it.
Atrial fibrillation is a common problem, especially in countries with higher socioeconomic status. Some cases of AFib are irreversible. What happens when AFib is a structural, genetic, or congenital problem. Cases, where AFib is a secondary cause of a specific condition are reversible.
Reversing AFib starts with healthy lifestyle changes. Maintain your weight in a healthy range, exercise regularly, manage stress, and avoid stimulants in order to support your heart health. Make sure to see your doctor regularly. Don’t avoid follow-up appointments just because you have no episodes of AFib. A good helper for regular heart monitoring is multiple personal and portable heart health monitoring devices and apps, which you can use to track important aspects such as heart rate, which shows how is your heart working. You can use this information to adapt your lifestyle choices and you can share it with your doctor to receive recommendations.