Food and Nutrition for Your Healthiest Heart

Food and Nutrition for Your Healthiest Heart

Does the quality of my diet affect my AFib?

In some ways, the quality of our nutrition influences everything about our health, from immunity to ability to recover after a surgery to reversing many chronic conditions. There has also been research indicating that you can prevent AFib and lessen the impact of your AFib through maintaining a healthy weight.

Good nutrition can also reverse or improve many heart-related conditions that contribute to AFib-related stroke risks and may also reduce the need for additional medication. Problems like high blood pressure, vascular disease, and diabetes are all conditions that can improve with good nutrition. It’s important to understand how these conditions can increase your risk for stroke which, when combined with any risks due to AFib, provides a strong incentive to remain in the very best heart-healthy condition possible.

Changing our habits in a culture of poor nutrition

Each year, $33 billion in medical costs and $9 billion in lost productivity result from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes mellitus that are attributed to poor nutrition. Making the right food choices can seem daunting in the face of countless fad diets that claim to hold the secret to success.

There’s a lot more to eating right than just watching your weight.

If you regularly skip eating the key components of good nutrition – a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, fat-free, 1% fat or low-fat dairy products, fiber-rich whole grains, and lean meats, poultry and fish – your body is missing the basic building blocks for a healthy life. Healthy foods fuel our bodies to create new cells and the energy we need to thrive and fight diseases. If you’re on an anticoagulant medication, it’s also important to remember to pay attention to those foods that are high in vitamin K.

Educate Yourself - Track Your Nutrition

The first step to eating right is to figure out what you’re actually eating. In our last article, we discussed tracking your food using a food diary as a means of learning your average calorie intake.

Keeping a food diary, which means writing everything you eat for at least a week, can be very helpful. It also helps to use an activity tracker to know your activity level and what else may be happening in your life so you can start to understand what drives eating decisions. (Stress? Happiness? Sadness? Boredom?) Reviewing the diary on a regular basis may also help you learn how your eating may change depending on the situation, or whether it’s a workday or weekend.

How can I begin taking small steps toward healthier nutrition?

It’s a good idea to learn about nutrition recommendations that outline what a balanced diet means, and what is right for your age and activity level.

  • Get educated even if it’s just a little each day. Reading nutrition labels, and limiting saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars also is important.
  • Make it easy. You can also look for the AHA’s Heart-Check mark to identify heart-healthy foods in the grocery store while shopping and also in restaurants when dining out.
  • Get professional guidance if you can. If you have access, meeting with a nutritionist or registered dietitian, even for just a few sessions, can help, too. The trained professional can work with you to create a nutrition plan that will put you on the right track.
  • Avoid portion distortion and change the ratio of high-calorie/low nutrition foods in your meal. Understanding portion size and what you need in a day is important for avoiding high-calorie foods, but also to avoid overeating “healthy” foods. Knowing the difference between a “serving” and “portion” can help you avoid portion distortion.
  • Don’t be fooled by misleading labels. “Just because something is fat-free or reduced-calorie doesn’t mean you can have unlimited quantities,” Platt said. Low fat also does not always mean it is the healthiest choice.

You’re planning for lifetime of healthy living, so keep working on your changes even if it takes a while to feel the rewards.

What are the key components for a heart- and brain-healthy diet?

Consume a dietary pattern that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils and nuts; and limits intake of sodium, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meats

While the AHA recommends that most adults consume no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day, your healthcare provider may provide you with a different recommendation based on your medications and blood pressure.

Recent Discussions From The Nutrition & Dining Forum
daveinermo avatar

I thought I would start this thread to talk about magnesium as I see very little about it on this board and there does not seem to be a lot of understanding of the amazing benefits of it. I belong to another AF forum which is UK based and magnesium and other supplements like CoQ10 get quite a bit of attention so thought it worth raising it here.

Before I start I should mention that big pharma has produced several anti-arrhythmic drugs that are completely based on the backbone of what magnesium does for the heart except you can not patent magnesium so therefore there is no huge money in it for them !

I am a massive fan of magnesium. It is responsible for over 300 important biochemical reactions in the body including anything from stopping leg cramps when you sleep (restless leg syndrome) to helping to elevate your mood by ensuring serotonin production is able to occur efficiently to making your heartbeat regular!

Around 90% of people who experience AF or similar heart problems are thought to be magnesium deficient.

I first stumbled across magnesium when in January of this year I started to wonder why I kept being given magnesium IV drips to get my 200 bpm AF under control.

Once I started to do some investigation I found out magnesium is one THE most important nutrients in your body and is critical for maintain an stable heartbeat. Risk factors for depletion of magnesium in the body include alcoholism (tick!), obesity (tick!) and smoking (tick!) so my past history almost guaranteed I was low on magnesium BUT most people are.

I would usually have an AF attack at least once a week and land in hospital at least once every 6-8 weeks.

I started supplementing in January and have not been to hospital in 4 months and have had 2 minor flutters that lasted about 20 minutes. My heartbeat feels stronger and less thready and I have been able to halve my anti-arrhythmic medication since the beginning of April.

An incredible bonus is that the depression I have fought since my early 20's (3 decades ago) has finally lifted and I feel better than I have in years. I thought it would be with me forever after trying several antidepressants with no success - if only I had known about magnesium years ago i could have had a rather different existence.

I could literally go for pages about magnesium but I won't because you may not be interested and there is PLENTY of supporting evidence and clinical studies everywhere on the web. It has very few drugs that it is a problem. The only common one I know of is that if you are taking magnesium you should wait two hours between warfarin and taking magnesium. 

You should of course always check your own medications for contraindications with magnesium - there are many resources on the web that can tell you these just google XXXXX (your drug) and magnesium.

Magnesium citrate is usually the most easily absorbed oral supplement however an even better form of magnesium supplementation is magnesium oil.

This is sprayed onto the skin and instead of having to battle the digestive system it is simply absorbed through the skin and directly into the blood stream.

There are a very limited number of people who maybe sensitive to magnesium supplements and you should always be careful with any kind of supplements of you have kidney disease. 

I would suggest you talk to your healthcare professional. That being said doctors will readily admit a lack of knowledge in the area of supplements because it really is not something covered very well in their years of training.

If you have any questions or want to discuss feel free to reply here - we can all learn from these.

Here are some links re: magnesium and its benefits for the heart

This one talks more broadly about the importance of magnesium and is rather technical but interesting viewing


tennisguy7 avatar

Go figure.  I am 3 weeks post ablation and feeling normally ok with no major issues. However this past tuesday and today i went into afib right after drinking cold OJ and taking my vitamins and eliquis.  I did not think anything of it until today when the same timing occurred. There was no stress precipiating it otherwise.   So I decided to see if there is a relationship between cold foods and afib and found this article in one of the medical databases.   Basically it says that the esophagus abuts nears the left atrium and vagal ganglia and that proximity with cold drinks can trigger afib.  There is other interesting information in the article as well.  

Maybe many of you knew this but it is news to me. So............. I will let my cold drinks warm up slightly before gulping them down and see if this makes a differece.  Has anyone else experienced the same thing?


retiredlcsw avatar

I have been taking magnesium supplements for the past several months to help alleviate PVC's that I have had for many years.  (Diagnosed with Afib 1 1/2 yrs ago.  Had ablation done last April with no episodes of afib since, but  PVC's continued) I was confused about which magnesium supplement to take, so I tried taking Magnesium Taurate for 1 month, then Magnesium Orotate for the next month, and now this month Heart Calm.  I have noticed a slight reduction in PVC's with all 3, but I have had stomach pains with the Heart Calm.  I take them after eating, not on an empty stomach, so that should not be an issue.  Anyone else experience this with Heart Calm?  I did not have this with the other supplements.  I think that the Magnesium Orotate worked the best, but the tablets are HUGE!!!!!!  Any suggestions about your experiences with magnesium supplements would be appreciated.  Thanks.

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