Thursday, May 7, 2015

Know anyone with atrial fibrillation?

You might – atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart rhythm disorder we are seeing more and more frequently.  AF carries a high risk of stroke, and there are many treatments to lower this risk and reduce symptoms; the most common treatments include anticoagulants to make the blood less likely to clot.  While these blood thinners reduce stroke risk, they have their own dangerous side effects (including, not surprisingly, a bleeding risk), often require frequent blood tests for monitoring, and do not completely eliminate the stroke risk.  Happily, our chance of developing AF is much lower if we choose to eat well and stay active.  There is also good news for those who have atrial fibrillation and are overweight: if you make sensible food choices and do moderate exercise to achieve at least 10% weight loss, and maintain those habits, you are 76% more likely to have AF disappear without using drugs or other interventions!  This is based on the results of a 5 year study of 355 overweight patients with AF, published last month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.[1]  It reminds us that good lifestyle choices are critical in treating disease as well as preventing it.  Using lifestyle medicine, people can often not only reverse AF and many other diseases, but also avoid the cost and side effects of drugs and medical procedures.  What a deal! 

Miles Hassell, MD

[1] Pathak, R. et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2015;doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2015.03.002