Things to do during an AF attack

After my last AF attack I swore I was going to do as much as I could to reduce the chances of having another attack, so I have lost a stone and a half (go me!), got a bit fitter, and have read as much of the good advice on here as I could, while (as always) hoping the next attack was going to be as far off as possible.

As luck would have it, a "friend" decided yesterday was a good day to upset me... and that stress led, unfortunately, in the middle of the night, to an attack. So, I thought I would try a few things that have been suggested here and report back. First, I did a yoga-sort-of stretch, putting my arms to shoulder height and then pulling them back as far as I could. While this didn't do anything to stop the AF, it did make my chest feel less uncomfortable. So I would give that a qualified thumbs up. Definitely better than scrunching up.

After that, I decided to try simple meditation (not easy when something you really dislike is happening to you, I know, but bear with me). For me, that was just lying as still as possible, and trying consciously to relax all my muscles - amazing how you do clench muscles during one of these attacks, I realise. I was also counting my breaths - to ten, and then starting again over and over, to keep all thoughts at bay - which really is a good idea, because during an attack they can be quite negative... I have to say, this didn't do a lot for the AF either, except that I was able to doze and relax rather than spend the night sleepless. So I would definitely give that a big thumbs up.

Another thing I would note is that I felt, though I didn't record it, that my heart was not beating as fast as it usually does (it can rev up to 170bpm). For me that was a big bonus. It was hard to ignore that weird floppy-fish thing going on, but it definitely helps, if you persevere.

As early as I felt I dared, I went to take my daily beta-blocker tablet, and went back to bed for an extra half hour. And whether it was the relaxed state, or the extra fitness or my heart hadn't been working quite so hard due to the meditation, or whatever, while I slept my heart went back into sinus. Now, this was a lot quicker than normal, because usually the attacks last around 12 hours and this time must have been five hours max.

I still feel bleugh today, as if I'd run a marathon or been ten rounds with Mohammed Ali, but generally I'm pleased. And if anyone has any other tips they would like to share that would be great. Undecided whether to report to doctor...

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32 Replies

  • There is no doubt in my mind that stress - beit mental or physical trauma - is a "turn on" for AF. As soon as I feel the slightest heart blip I stop whatever I am doing, sit or lay down ( a bit difficult in the middle of Morrisons I admit) and inhale and exhale equal breaths of about 2 seconds for a few minutes. It may not immediately stop the AF but it quickly has a calming effect, and greatly reduces the impact of the AF.

  • Thanks, Langara, that sounds like a great idea and well worth trying. My AF has so far come on only at night, which is probably just as well for Morrisons!

  • I think taking control in the way you did is fantastic and I am sure that it helped. Well done you.


  • Thank you Bob! :)

  • You are doing great really , I will always put your techniques in mind .

    I just started recently stop being panicked during AF after i learned more about It and read other experiences here and I admit the attacks are shorter and easier than before .

    I tried different techniques earlier to stop it but nothing helped , also I noticed that stress and big meals are playing major role in triggering AF .


  • Thank you Maitha and yes, I think stress and big meals are big factors. I try not to eat after 7pm... I think the panic we all feel probably makes the attacks worse - it's just finding ways of controlling that...

  • I have to say I'm impressed with all that you did. It's just so awful when you suddenly become aware that your heart has started racing. I once heard it described as having a bird fluttering around in your chest and for me at times, that's just how it felt. The times when it does that always appear to be the worst attacks for me.

    A few times when I have been advised to go to A&E I would take a quick shower and guess what - sometimes that would put my heart back into normal rhythm. Now, I have to point out that I've always been told by the professionals not to shower before going because of the exertion making things worse, but I just couldn't go out anywhere without a daily shower.

    Some nights when I've gone to bed and my heart starts doing such strong beats that it keeps me awake, I put my arms up over my head and stretch out to the sides and then up and this will always calm it. I think that advice was given by a member of this forum a few months ago - probably by Grandma.

    I sometimes become very aware that I'm holding tension in my chest/heart area. As soon as I'm aware that I'm doing it I immediately carry out some relaxation exercises -Terrified not to really in case that dreaded fast beat starts!

    Someone I know had a stroke while in bed. She had knocked over her tea from the bedside table and it happened after she'd grabbed some tissues and bent down to mop it up. Now I have this fear of bending down while in AF. Though having said that a young neighbour tells me she can sometimes cure her palpitations, as she calls them, by bending down.

    I don't know what to say about whether you should report it to your doctor. If you don't have these attacks very often I think I would, just so that they have it on record.

    I hope you soon regain your energy levels.

  • Thank you Jean! Yes, it is a horrible feeling, and so hard not to panic - I dislike it so much, I really can't explain to anyone outside this group. I will try Grandma's advice, that sounds good. As for a shower, who knows? It's not major exertion is it, and if it calms you enough to make you go into sinus, it's got to be good. I don't think strokes are related to how you're moving, though Bob would know more than I do - I think the main thing is not to worry too much but be watchful for symptoms. I'll try sending the doctor an email and hope they don't drag me in!

  • Wow! Well done!!!! Good for you for staying calm and just employing all those helpful strategies. Yesterday I had my Sept. acupuncture appointment and the Dr. reiterated how important it is for me to begin each day with meditation to keep stress at bay. Like you, I've had episodes of AF that are clearly directly related to stress, anxiety, or excitement. Also, I keep a diary of my AF days, recording not just the date, but the circumstances to help to discern patterns, but it is good to take to my yearly appointments to my cardiologist. Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you! I think that keeping a diary is really really helpful, I'm sure that understanding the patterns is incredibly important and as you say, something to show to the cardiologist as well as giving you a good guide about when you might be heading towards AF and giving you a chance to avoid it. I am going to try to meditate more, it's definitely really helpful.

  • Nice to hear someone else trying acupuncture. I have an hours session every week. I also wish to note I agree with everyone here who states stress as a trigger.

  • I really must try acupuncture... It sounds wonderful!

  • It's not a cure but research I have read says it helps the drugs be more effective, can help reduce stress, teach your body to relax properly. It's a lovely experience and highly recommended. Be honest with the practitioner about your condition and drugs. They will do the rest.

    Make sure you go to a good one, check their reputation and credentials

  • I've just been looking up local practitioners - there's nobody really close, but a few up near the coast. I will investigate! Thank you very much for the suggestion.

  • A friend of mine with a dodgy hip recommended I try it. I did some research online into AF and acupuncture and acupuncture in general. Armed with that knowledge I found the best one in the area. I was surprised that they are used to dealing with people who take warfarin. I take dagibatran.

    The only side effect I notice is I am so chilled out I smile and yawn all the way back to the train station.

  • Hi. My doctor's surgery has a physio who also does acupuncture - and this is on NHS. Ask your doctor as may have a practitioner on contract if not in house. Probably waiting list but not too long. Marie

  • Stress and large meals plus sometimes bread do it for me. I deep breathe and read and I don't bother telling GP who wouldn't be int he least bit interested. I ought to keep a diary and I think its really important at the beginning but I've had it for about8 years now so it is not uncommon. But if I get more than usual I will and I am going to boringly keep a diary of any infections I get this year as I am much worse in these. Tired and worn out next day always.

  • Hi Liz... Yes, stress and large meals seem to be really common factors. Bread is an interesting one - I think chocolate might be a trigger for me as well (which makes me sad). I am going to keep a diary, since these attacks are obviously going to keep rearing their ugly head, though after as you say eight years I guess the novelty wears off a bit! A diary of infections sounds like a brilliant idea. On the plus side, I am feeling really run-a-marathon perky today :)

  • So glad you are feeling energetic today! I've had AF for 11 years, though at the beginning only 1 episode per year. I can't remember when it got a bit more frequent up to about 10 episodes per year, but since the acupuncture, not only are they shorter and further apart, but I never, ever feel tired the next day any more. When I do have it, it seems more bearable and even my husband notes that I function much better in spite of the cardiac craziness.

    I didn't keep a diary back then, but just started last year when I started the acupuncture, in order to document the changes. I am fortunate to have an M.D/acupuncturist who thoroughly understands AF.

    We've also had many discussions on this forum about taking Coenzyme Q 10 which he also prescribed and I think is part of what has helped to shorten the episodes. My cardiologist had not prescribed it, though many do. Check with yours about taking it. It helps to strengthen cardiac muscle.

  • Thank you grandma! I'm looking up acupuncturists and I will get some coenzyme Q10... My attacks are getting more frequent, and anything I can do to push them back would be good.

  • Hi Grandma - Do you know if it's o.k. to take Coenzyme Q10 as well as warfarin?

  • Always, always check with your health care provider before taking any supplement. While Co-Q 10 does occur naturally in the body and is an antioxidant it can sometimes interact with warfarin in the same way some foods can, so if the INR changes, that may be a reason. Careful consultation and monitoring if you are on the warfarin.

  • Thanks for your advice. It's something I used to take last year, before starting warfarin, so I still have some. Will check with my GP.

  • I'm not on warfarin, GP has me on aspirin... But I will check anyway - thank you for the advice!

  • Hi Nedra, I've been talking Co Q10 for years and years and years for that matter. I'm sure it helps. The point about anything you take is to be consistent and not dip in and out of things. That way it can't affect your INR as you are stable anyway. Might be worth having it checked after a week or so if you are worried but from my experience it does nothing but help energy levels etc. I also take magnesium chelate pills and really noticed the difference. Magnesium is important for good conduction in the heart.


  • Yes, I am sure it helps too! How much CoQ 10 do you take, Bob? I am sure that is a good part of the reason why I feel energetic as soon as an episode ends vs the old hit by a truck next day recovery. I take 100 but my acupuncturist wants me to work up to 300 mg/day. I tried the magnesium but it did not agree with me..

  • I take 200 at the moment as that is the size my wife gets from Healthspan. The magnesium tends to leave one a little "loose" I find but that may also be a result of all the radiotherapy I had. Two years on and I still glow in the dark LOL I used to set off the anti theft alarms in stores for a while.when I had my bone scan.

    Jean yes I am on warfarin 4.5 for 6 days and 5 one day and stable around 2.3.

  • Uh, "a little loose" is an understatement!

  • I was trying to be polite! Eye of a needle as my boys would say.

  • Hi Bob - Do you take warfarin or one of the newer drugs? Jean

  • thanks alot grandma,think I will give acupuncture a go too.also, glad to read all of your messages & thoughts about A/F, causes & how you all "get over" them. I was diagnosed 2 years ago but it took me about 18 months & 4 or 5 episodes to realize that stress was probably the main factor.good luck to you all & keep on "talking to" each other.

  • Thanks Reme - I think that talking really helps a great deal too :)

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