Atrial Fibrillation

Heart | March 18, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

heart

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat characterised by rapid and irregular beating of the atria. It can be caused by high blood pressure, obesity, heart valve diseases and hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include a reduced ability to exercise, fatigue and palpitations.

Having atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. It may come and go or become permanent.

Luckily, there are many natural therapy options which can assist in healthy heart function while promoting general cardiovascular health.

What happens during atrial fibrillation

Our heart consists of 4 chambers—2 upper chambers (artria) and two lower chambers (ventricles).

In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of your heart (atria) experience chaotic electrical signals. As a result, they quiver. The AV node — the electrical connection between the atria and the ventricles — is bombarded with impulses trying to get through to the ventricles.

This results in a heartbeat that is fast and irregular. A normal heart rate is around 60-100 beats per minute, but those with atrial fibrillation have a faster heartbeat of about 100-175 beats per minute.

Causes

The most common cause is abnormalities or damage to the heart’s structure. Other possible causes include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Abnormal heart valves and heart defects
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Previous heart surgery
  • Being overweight
  • High levels of stress
  • Cigarette smoking, caffeine and alcohol use
  • Family history

Symptoms

Common symptoms include heart palpitations or fast heartbeat. It may include chest pain and increased anxiety. There is usually chronic fatigue and weakness—despite sleeping well. A person with atrial fibrillation may be dizzy and short of breath—making it difficult to exercise.

Complications

Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke and heart failure. The chaotic rhythm of the heart may cause blood to pool in your heart’s upper chambers (atria) and form clots. This clot can then dislodge and travel to your brain where it can lead to a blockage and cause a stroke.
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6 ways to naturally reduce atrial fibrillation

1. Lower stress levels

A 2010 article published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing suggests that patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation experience more psychological distress compared to healthy controls. Psychological distress in forms of anxiety and depression in patients with heart failure or coronary artery disease is related to increased mortality, morbidity, and consumption of healthcare.

Some simple ways to lower stress include:

  • Take a magnesium supplement
  • Use essential oils such as lavender, lemon and frankincense
  • Supplement with mild sedative herbs such as Californian poppy, zizyphus or passionflower
  • Incorporate relaxation techniques
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy

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2. Exercise

Physical activity is important in atrial fibrillation to improve management and treatment of the condition. Exercise has also been identified to reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation among at-risk populations.

A 2013 systemic review found that moderate-intensity physical activity improved exercise capacity, quality of life, and the ability to carry out activities of daily living among persons with atrial fibrillation. However, long-term vigorous endurance exercise may be associated with increased incidence of atrial fibrillation and greater risks may be associated with high-intensity physical activity among those with atrial fibrillation.

Examples of moderate-intensity exercise includes swimming, cycling, brisk walking or any other low-impact activity you enjoy.

3. Quit smoking

Cigarette smoke significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and atrial fibrillation. If you smoke and can't quit on your own, talk to your doctor about strategies or programs to help you break a smoking habit.
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4. Manage underlying health conditions

If you have another health condition which contributes to atrial fibrillation this needs to be addressed. If you have high blood pressure find ways to better manage your stress and take a supplement such as magnesium, taurine, kyolic garlic or L-arginine. High cholesterol levels can be reduced by supplementing with psyllium husks, fish oil, plant sterols and a change in diet. If you are overweight, follow the recommendations in the Mediterranean diet for gradual weight loss and exercise regularly.
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5. Heart smart diet

Diet plays a huge role in our overall health—including that of our heart and cardiovascular system.

4. Heart smart dietAim for foods that reduce inflammation and are rich in nutrients such as antioxidants.
The Mediterranean diet is the most beneficial diet for cardiovascular health. It includes fresh fruit and veggies, lean meats, lentils, legumes, herbs, spices, and healthy fats from fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil.
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In the case of atrial fibrillation, high amounts of caffeine and alcohol can also make the problem worse. If you have high blood pressure limiting sodium intake is a must.

6. Heart healthy supplements

Natural therapies in atrial fibrillation aim to promote healthy heart function and reduce complications such as stroke. They include:

Coenzyme Q10—An important antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to maintain healthy electroconductivity of the heart.
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Fish oil—rich in omega-3, fish oil helps to thin the blood, reduce inflammation and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
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Berberine—a natural compound found in certain plants. It has been found to have the same efficacy as amiodarone—a drug used to treat atrial fibrillation.
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Kyolic garlic—this aged garlic which is taken as a supplement has numerous benefits including preventing blood clots and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

Resveratrol—a polyphenol found in grapes which has well-documented cardioprotective effects— including its ability to regulate heart rate.

Putting it all together

  • Atrial fibrillation is a common type of arrhythmia which results in an irregular and increased heart rate
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, quitting smoking and eating a balanced diet can help support healthy heart function
  • Supplements such as coenzyme Q10, fish oil, kyolic garlic, berberine and resveratrol offer alternative treatment strategies

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References

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/heart-conditions-atrial-fibrillation

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-20350624

McCabe PJ. Psychological distress in patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation: the state of the science. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2010 Jan-Feb;25(1):40-51

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19935428

Giacomantonio NB, et al. A systematic review of the health benefits of exercise rehabilitation in persons living with atrial fibrillation. Can J Cardiol. 2013 Apr;29(4):483-91

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23200094

Lin YK, et al. Mitochondrial dysfunction on sinoatrial node and pulmonary vein electrophysiological activities. Exp Ther Med. 2017 May;13(5):2486-2492

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28565869

Zheng H, et al. Antimicrobial Natural Product Berberine Is Efficacious for the Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:3146791

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29392132

Baczkó ILight PE. Resveratrol and derivatives for the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2015 Aug;1348(1):68-74

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26205342

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