When you’re living with AFib, it’s especially important to eat a heart-healthy diet to reduce your risk of an AFib episode and also to address other underlying health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or diabetes. With this guide, we’ll show you that making healthy choices can be simple, delicious, and fun!
1. Get familiar with heart-healthy diet basics
The following diet guidelines from the American Heart Association can help you lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control your weight, and reduce your risk for diabetes—all of which are risk factors for diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).
- Limit unhealthy fats and sodium
- Avoid sugary and processed foods
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Choose whole grains
- Choose low-fat protein sources
2. Understand portion size
Did you know that meal portions have nearly doubled in the last 20 years? Thankfully, help to remember how much you should be eating is as close as your hand!
- 3 oz lean protein, like fish or chicken = a deck of cards
- 1 cup fresh fruit or vegetables = a tennis ball
- 1 serving of potatoes, rice, or pasta = an ice cream scoop
- 1 oz of peanut butter or cheese = your thumb
At mealtime, it also helps to eat from a salad plate rather than a full-size dinner plate. Fill up half your plate with vegetables and divide the other half between lean protein and grains or starch.
3. Treat yourself! (Occasionally)
Eating well doesn’t mean you can never have your favorite foods again. When you’re regularly making healthy choices, you can feel better about treating yourself when the occasion arises.
4. Plan ahead
It’s easier to control how often and how much you eat when you plan meals and snacks ahead of time. Try making a weekly menu with what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation
Not only can too much alcohol trigger an AFib episode, but alcoholic beverages also add up to more calories, which can have negative effects on your health. Try to stick to no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.
6. Understand what foods to include and avoid with AFib
If you are taking warfarin (Coumadin®), foods high in vitamin K, like leafy greens, affect how well it works to protect you against blood clots and stroke. XARELTO® has no known food interactions—you can eat the healthy foods that you like, knowing you’re still protected from the risk of stroke.
People with AFib who are sensitive to or allergic to gluten may want to avoid it. Inflammation caused by a gluten allergy can affect the nerves that control the rhythm of your heart.
If you are taking certain rate or rhythm drugs for AFib (amiodarone or dofetilide), you may want to avoid grapefruit. It contains a chemical that can interfere with their effectiveness.
This is one mineral you may want to add to your diet. Some research shows that low magnesium levels can negatively impact the rhythm of your heart. Foods that can help you get more magnesium are almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, avocados, whole grains, and yogurt.
Low potassium levels may increase your risk for an AFib episode. Get more potassium in your diet by eating avocados, bananas, apricots, oranges, sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes, prunes, or squash. If you are taking certain rate or rhythm drugs, talk to your doctor before adding more potassium to your diet because it may affect their effectiveness.