Heart Disease: Alternative Treatments for AFib

Yoga lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and the number of AFib episodes.

Yoga

The combination of gentle exercise, breathing, and meditation does more than improve your happiness. An hour a day, three times a week, can be enough to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and the number of AFib episodes after 3 months. Yoga may even lessen inflammation that could lead to AFib.

In acupuncture, targeting a point in the inner wrist could help AFib.

Acupuncture

It's been practiced in other parts of the world for centuries, and it comes with almost no risk. Limited research suggests that targeting a point in the inner wrist could help your AFib. Acupuncture is safe when you go to a trained, certified expert. And some styles use pressure instead of needles.

Wenxin Keli extract is used widely in China to treat occasional, or paroxysmal, AFib.

Wenxin Keli

This herb extract is used widely in China to treat occasional, or paroxysmal, AFib. Studies show promising results. Chinese researchers reported few side effects, and those were mostly minor. But we need more research to make sure it's safe. Talk to your doctor before you take this or any supplement.

A heart-friendly diet can lessen your chance of AFib complications.

Fatty Fish

Salmon, mackerel, and some tunas have both vitamin D and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Too little vitamin D has been linked to heart problems, and one study found a connection between low levels and AFib that's not related to heart valves. A heart-friendly diet like the Mediterranean diet -- with foods low in cholesterol and saturated and trans fats like fish, chicken, and other lean proteins -- can lessen your chance of AFib complications such as stroke.

People with both AFib and heart failure who took coenzyme Q10 had fewer episodes.

Coenzyme Q10

People with both AFib and heart failure who took this supplement in a study had one-quarter fewer episodes after 12 months. But CoQ10 can make the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) less effective. Medications called statins, which lower cholesterol, can also lower levels of CoQ10. So you should check with your doctor before you start taking it.

When you have AFib, you aren't more likely to have problems with gluten.

Gluten-free?

Researchers in Sweden found that some people who have gluten intolerance have a higher risk for getting AFib. But the reverse isn't necessarily true: When you have AFib, you aren't more likely to have problems with gluten. Go ahead and enjoy whole-grain bread and pasta (in the right portion sizes, of course!). Fiber is good for your heart.

Being overweight can affect AFib.

Healthy Weight

Being overweight can affect AFib in a few ways. Work on shedding extra pounds with exercise and a good diet. Don't turn to over-the-counter weight loss drugs. The herb ma huang, an ingredient in some of them, has ephedrine, which can cause an irregular heartbeat.

Enjoyable activities will help lift your mood and keep AFib in check.

Make Time for Fun

Schedule enjoyable activities and then stick to that plan, even if you're not sure you want to. A healthy lifestyle -- eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep -- will also help lift your mood and keep your stress in check. You'll be less likely to trigger your AFib.

Pot can cause atrial fibrillation.

No Marijuana

Now that it's legal in more places, it might seem like an option to help you chill out. But take a deep breath first. Although it hasn't been studied much, research in Israel suggests the active ingredient in pot can cause atrial fibrillation if you've already got problems with your heart rhythm.

Biofeedback helps control irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias.

Biofeedback

This training helps you learn how your body responds to stress. Electrodes attached to your skin let you know what's happening as you're doing a relaxation technique, like meditation or hypnosis. It's not yet used widely for AFib, but a small study showed people were able to control their irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias.

A good support system helps when suffering from AFib.

Reach Out

Talk to your family about your concerns. Learn more about your condition through web sites, self-help groups, and visits with your doctor. A good support system and a sense of control over your illness will help you hold off worry and depression.

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REFERENCES:

  • Kanmanthareddy, A. Journal of Thoracic Disease, February 2015.
  • Lombardi, F. World Journal of Cardiology, March 26, 2012.
  • Chen, Y. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, published online Dec. 4, 2013.
  • Demir, M. Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, January 2014.
  • American Heart Association: "Prevention Strategies for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)," "The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations."
  • Zhao, Q. Journal of Investigative Medicine, June 2015.
  • Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: "Coenzyme Q10."
  • University of Maryland Medical Center: "Possible Interactions with: Coenzyme Q10."
  • Emilsson, L. European Heart Journal, October 2011.
  • University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics: "Atrial Fibrillation: Frequently Asked Questions."
  • Shea, J. Circulation, May 20, 2008.
  • Lehavi, A. Harefuah, January 2005.
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