Living with Atrial Fibrillation

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Living well with Atrial Fibrillation

Living well with Atrial Fibrillation

By making healthy lifestyle choices you can reduce your risk of stroke and help manage your Atrial Fibrillation (AF) symptoms. We’re sharing tips on how to deal with AF-related fatigue, as well as how to stay active. We’ll also be dispelling some myths around AF and caffeine too.

Dealing with tiredness

Many people living with AF experience tiredness and fatigue as a symptom. It can be a challenging aspect of AF, as it’s an invisible symptom that can affect your day-to-day life.

Tiredness in AF is caused by your heart not pumping blood around your body as efficiently as it should. Some medications can also make you feel more tired. It’s a symptom you should mention to your doctor, as it’s something that may be able to be treated through slight changes in your medications, or a cardioversion or other procedures.

There are also lifestyle changes you can make to support yourself through periods of fatigue. These include:

  • getting 8 hours of sleep a night
  • eating well and regularly
  • exercising often, even if it’s just a brisk walk
  • taking time to relax and unwind when you’re stressed.

More on healthy living

AF and alcohol

If you drink alcohol, you should always check with your doctor about drinking guidelines before you start a new medication. If you’re told that you can drink alcohol while taking your AF medications, there are some guidelines you still need to follow.

It’s recommended that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week and you should have several alcohol-free days each week.

Drinking alcohol may also increase your AF symptoms, especially if you binge drink.

Read more about alcohol

AF and caffeine

Current evidence suggests that a moderate amount of caffeine (e.g. 4 or 5 cups of coffee a day) has no effect on your risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). So if you have AF, moderate amounts are usually fine.

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and it’s possible for it to cause heart palpitations. If this happens to you, it’s wise to limit your caffeine intake by switching to decaffeinated teas and coffees, and avoid energy drinks and food which contains caffeine. This includes chocolate and any food that contains chocolate, coffee or cocoa.

Read more about AF and caffeine

Living an active life with AF

If you’re living with AF, physical activity should form an important part of your lifestyle.

Exercising regularly helps prevent heart and circulatory diseases in the long run. It has a lot of health benefits, including controlling your weight, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and improving your mental health.

People taking anticoagulant medication may have to avoid high impact exercise or sports where there’s a real risk of getting injured, as it can lead to you bleeding more than usual. If that means giving up an activity you’re passionate about, try swapping it with something that’s active, but has less risk. For example, you could swap skiing for swimming or heavy weight lifting to light weights or pilates.

If you’re unsure about whether you’re doing the right exercise for your condition, speak to your doctor or nurse before you continue.

Read more about getting active

AF and smoking

Whether you have AF or not, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. However, once you know you have AF, it’s even more important. That’s because smoking increases your risk of having a stroke, adding to the risk you already have due to AF.

If you smoke, our Understanding Smoking booklet can help you in this important step towards living a longer, healthier life.

Download or order the booklet

Case study: living life to the full

Andrew McDonald felt that his life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, aged 60. After medication, two cardioversions and having a pacemaker fitted, he felt limited. He was unable to drive or be as active as he used to be.

But by gradually taking up new activities like beekeeping, Andrew started to feel like himself again. He even fulfilled his lifelong dream of flying a Spitfire.

Andrew’s flight in a Spitfire

Read his full story

Heart Matters

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Next: FAQs and ongoing support

What we will cover next:

  • How to adapt your travel plans to living with AF.
  • How to build a support network and mental health resources.
  • How to cope with stress that can come with living with a heart condition.

Content on HealthUnlocked does not replace the relationship between you and doctors or other healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

Never delay seeking advice or dialling emergency services because of something that you have read on HealthUnlocked.