Atrial fibrillation: The simple lifestyle tweaks that could significantly lower your risk

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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of the most common forms of heart rhythm disturbances, caused by a loss of normal co-ordination between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. Recent estimations by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest that up to half a million Britons are undiagnosed. Some lifestyle factors may hold the key to lowering the burden of the condition, and in some cases prevent it altogether.

AF can affect individuals across all age groups, however some factors can increase the likelihood of the condition.

The most concerning element of the condition is its link to stroke, which is also associated with heart failure, high blood pressure and diabetes.

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The heart disturbance can be triggered by anything that perturbs the heart’s electrical activity, such as stress, excessive caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and some types of medication.

One of the most significant factors associated with AF is excessive weight, as this can cause changes to the heart’s upper chambers.

READ MORE: Stroke: The lifestyle habit increasing your risk of the life-threatening condition

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Furthermore, excessive eating can trigger inflammation through changes in hormone and cell-signalling pathways.

Several studies have also demonstrated that overweight individuals are more likely to have fat deposited in the heart, another common trigger for arrhythmia.

Sleep

Individuals who have trouble sleeping may be at greater risk of atrial fibrillation.

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A 2018 study published by HeartRhythm found a link between AF and common sleep disturbance.

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It found that sleep-disordered breathing – when an individual stops breathing for short periods while they are breathing – could cause heart palpitations.

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Obstructive sleep apnea, in particular, have important associations with AF, making it important to monitor any changes in sleep patterns.

Alcohol

Abstaining from alcohol may significantly lower lower overall, with past research linking long-term alcohol intake with the development of AF.

A recent study published in Annal of Internal Medicine, found that consuming alcohol increases the risk for AF within hours.

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Diet

The consequences of bad diet can ripple across all areas of health, particularly the heart.

Blood sugars can directly damage the heart, promoting structural, autoimmune and electrical changes within the organ’s tissue, putting diabetics at greater risk of AF.

Managing blood sugar can hold promising results for both the severity and frequency of AF symptoms.

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Transitioning to a Mediterranean diet could also help control weight, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Symptoms

As the rhythm of the heart becomes disturbed, the heart begins to beast faster, and sometimes irregularly.

Consequently, individuals may experience an urge to pee more often or lightheadedness.

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Excessive urination may also be triggered by a shift in the balance of hormones can lead to an increase in urine production.

Carefully monitoring of symptoms could help mitigate the dangers of AF. However, as with most conditions, prevention is better than cure.

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