Creating an Environment for Heart-Healthy Living

Creating an Environment for Heart-Healthy Living

Many issues related to AFib may be outside of your control, but there are some ways you can reduce your risks that may even reduce your experience of AFib symptoms. A person’s environment can either increase or decrease your likelihood for making consistently healthy choices. The good news is that by being intentional and creating room in your life for healthy habit development, you can help set yourself up for not only making overall healthy choices, but also for managing your AFib well.

Key Opportunities for a Healthy Home Environment

Go Smoke-Free at Home

Can cigarettes be a trigger for AFib?: Cigarettes are a stimulant that has been linked to increased atrial fibrillation. If you have been diagnosed with AFib, it is critically important that you stop smoking. The list of reasons to quit smoking is very long but avoiding atrial fibrillation is a very important reason for anyone interested in AFib wellness. People who regularly smoke are about 50% more likely than nonsmokers to develop atrial fibrillation. Additionally, treatment options become much more limited for people who smoke.

AFib, Smoking, and Stroke Risks: Smoking can double your risk for stroke. Smoking cigarettes also raises your blood pressure, which is a risk factor related to both atrial fibrillation and stroke. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn more about the best smoking-cessation plan for you. Learn more about how "quitters win!"

Create a Restful Bedtime Routine

Getting a good night’s sleep is not just a “nice idea.” It’s important for your cardiovascular health and some sleep problems, like sleep apnea, are directly correlated with atrial fibrillation. Even if you are not one who suffers from sleep apnea, giving your body a chance to rest will help your overall heart health and your symptoms and experience with atrial fibrillation.

Quality sleep helps stabilize our mood and reduces our experience of stress while psychological distress, like anxiety and depression, has been linked to an increase of symptom severity and more frequently recurring episodes of AFib. But don’t let those facts keep you up at night worrying! Instead, practice habits for heart-healthy sleeping.

Create a Plan for Medication Success

Keeping your medications filled and taking them at the same time every day will give you better and more consistent results with AFib management. Many people successfully add a medication routine to their lives by making a certain time and place for it in their home and schedule. Provided your medication instructions do not require that you store them in their original packaging, keeping a pill-a-day box can help, as well as setting a special alarm to help you remember to take it at the same time each day. Some people pair their medication with something they do every day, like brushing their teeth. When you pick up a new prescription, set reminders two or three days beforehand so you don’t forget to pick up your refills. Find what works for you and set up your environment for success.

If you are taking warfarin and self-monitoring your blood coagulation time (or INR) at home, look at what you can do to create a convenient space for testing and recording your results. Setting up organized systems is easy for some people and others may appreciate guidance. Find an appropriately-sized container where you can store all supplies and any tracking tools you may be using. Additionally, you may find it helpful to keep a notebook handy to write down any discoveries or questions that come up. Store it in a handy location so that you can access it as often as directed, and make a system to remind yourself when it’s time to remeasure, call in your results to the monitoring company, or touch base with your doctor’s office.

Communicate Your AFib Management Routine

Some people are more reluctant than others to share their progress, invite friends and family to accompany them to doctor appointments, and allow people who care about them to help. Regardless of your personal style, it may be a good idea to let someone know where you keep your medications, what pharmacy fills your prescription, and what you’re doing to manage your health.

If you’re having surgery or procedures, the time you’ve spent to make an organized system of care, medication-taking, and note-keeping can help you feel better about asking for some help when you may need it most.

There are many more ways to help you set up your environment for success. Join us in the community forum to continue discussing this with peers who are also working to build their healthiest lives.

Recent Discussions From The At Home Forum
teanderson avatar

I underwent pulmonary vein isolation 11/21/17. I felt great for 2 days then went back into Afib. I ended up in ER for an IV. I had a rough 7 days, then started feeling better. EP changed all my medications just to make sure they were not the cause of my problem. I went into Afib again in late January 2018 (again not feeling well and confirmed by EKG, IV again made me feel human). At that point, I was put on Amiodarone and Digoxin. I was exhausted so PCP  changed Digoxin to MWF only. That has been working well. EP and PCP agree to keep me on both medications and Eliquis until school ends as I have no more sick days. I went to EP at the end of April and he has me on a 30 heart monitor and is talking about transitioning me to a different antiarrhythmic or considering me for an epicardial ablation and be seen by another heart specialist. I guess I was expecting another ablation but thought it would be the same type, not a different ablation by a different doctor. Has anyone else experienced this?

Girtygirl avatar

Thanks to the many great minds here along with the wonderful information gained from the “Get in Rhythm Stay in Rhythm Patient Conference 2017”, I will be heading to Texas for an ablation by Dr. Natale. I am already blown away by the efficiency, education and kindness shown by his staff.  Obviously, I will be a bit nervous, but at the same time I know I will be in the hands of the best of the best. 

Genie

BillM avatar

Hello, everyone. I’m the new guy, Bill, and have some concerns and general questions for the group. My usual symptoms are skipped beats, sometimes coming every three or four beats, lasting several minutes  

Twice within the past five weeks, I’ve been hospitalized for four days due to uncontrolled AFib. The first time, my hear returned to sinus rhythm fairly quickly, the second time, it was several hours. I’ll concentrate on the second visit, which just ended yesterday. 

I’d gone to school Saturday morning at 9:30 to conduct a review session for my AP World History students (I’m a public high school teacher) in preparation for the upcoming AP exam, but after getting there the AFib began, slowly at first, but quickly ratcheted up to a full-blown episode. 911 was called, and I was quickly on my way in an ambulance.

I was in the ER by 10:00 that morning, surrounded by six to eight doctors and nurses all working feverishly. Details are a bit sketchy as my mind was a bit occupied, as you can well imagine, but there was talk of an emergency catheterization, which was called off as my blood work showed no signs of a heart attack. After several IVs and injections that helped calm down the AFib (heart rate was 120-140) I was admitted, sent to a room and put on a monitor. Sunday, they did an echocardiogram, and scheduled me for a catheterization Monday morning. Another sleepless night, this time with no food or water after midnight, but instead of the catheterization, they did a nuclear stress test, just as they had during the stay five weeks prior. 

Two cardiologists looked at my nuke test results, and were concerned about the pictures of my lower heart, and scheduled a catheterization for the next morning (Tuesday). After yet another sleepless night in the hospital (does anyone ever get any sleep in a hospital room?), my regular cardiologist came to see me, and was puzzled by the decision to cath me, seeing no difference between yesterday’s test and the one from March, which was identical to one I’d had two years ago. Never the less, the procedure went ahead, and results were negative. I was discharged that evening, with no changes in medications, or in anything at all. 

So here I sit, at my kitchen table, wondering why I spend so much time in the hospital with no apparent results. I was to have a loop recorder installed, but the doctor who did the cath (in fact, who has done all my caths and implanted both my stents) said that seemed superfluous as the purpose of the recorder was to determine I have AFib, which I clearly do. There was also mention of new medications, and possibly an ablation down the road. But other than that, no change in my meds, no advice on how to deal with further episodes or how to avoid them, and, to be honest, I feel a bit neglected and concerned. My questions to the group, then are: How do you deal with living with AFib? How do you contend with the possibility that episodes such as I had on Saturday might recur at any time? Are there any avenues I should pursue with my cardiologist? How do you kind folks stay calm when AFib hits for brief periods?

I feel badly coming here with so many questions as the new guy, but I was quite relieved to find this group as it helps alleve the feelings of being alone with this condition. I thank you all for your time, and wish you all good health, good living, and good friends. 

Oddly enough,

Bill

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