Living with Atrial Fibrillation

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Atrial fibrillation tends to course episodically, particularly in the early stages (paroxysmal or persistent). However, the circumstances that trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation often cannot be identified, while on other occasions they are quite evident. Furthermore, it is sometimes impossible to prevent the triggering factors (e.g. an episode while asleep), but sometimes the risk can be minimised or prevented (e.g. by avoiding large meals, alcohol and excessive strain).

Healthy habits

Beer mug and joint crossed out; no drug consumption

Toxic agents. Excessive alcohol consumption may provoke episodes of atrial fibrillation, even in people who do not have a heart problem. Smoking increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, due to both its direct toxic effects and the damage it causes to the coronary arteries. Weight loss in people with obesity, plus a reduction of the associated factors such as high blood pressure and a sedentary lifestyle, is known to decrease the recurrences of atrial fibrillation and significantly improves the results of treatment.

Food pyramid

Diet. Following a balanced diet and avoiding being overweight or obese are important factors that prevent the onset of atrial fibrillation, reduce the risk of recurrences and improve treatment effectiveness.

Person running and an upward arrow indicating an increase in exercise.

Exercise. Physical activity provides a dual effect. On one hand, moderate physical exercise (walking quickly or jogging slowly) helps prevent recurrences of atrial fibrillation and improves control over risk factors: it helps with weight loss, reduces blood pressure and controls glycaemia in the case of diabetes. On the other hand, high-intensity physical exercise (especially endurance exercises: running, cycling, and so on) increases the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Person sleeping in a bed

Sleep. Sleep apnoea (snoring) is a risk factor for developing atrial fibrillation. Patients who suffer excessive daytime drowsiness, unrefreshing sleep or snoring should discuss it with their healthcare team, especially if they have obesity or high blood pressure.

Sexuality, sex, masculine, feminine

Sexuality. A diagnosis of atrial fibrillation does not imply any contraindication for maintaining sexual relationships.

Travelling by plane

Travel. Having atrial fibrillation does not generally mean patients must stop travelling. If you are taking anticoagulants such as Sintrom®, Aldocumar® or similar, you must remember to check your clotting status during the trip, if necessary. Given that the formulations of anticoagulants and antiarrhythmic agents can vary between countries, you should take enough doses with you to cover the entire trip. It is also a good idea to carry an up-to-date medical report.

Substantiated information by:

Alba Cano Valls
Eduard Guasch Casany
Josep Lluís Mont Girbau
Manel Castellà Pericas

Published: 27 November 2018
Updated: 27 November 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.

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