Several ‘interventions’ to help prevent or cut down the risk of developing Atrial Fibrillation (AF) involve making lifestyle changes and adopting a healthier way of living.
With a number of causes of AF, and some beyond the control of the individual, making even simple changes to what people eat, drink, and how they exercise, can have benefits.
An important element of that is improving heart health, which in turn can reduce the possibility of developing AF.
Some of the most basic heart health tips start with diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
A key component is giving up smoking, or not starting to use tobacco in the first place, followed by avoiding, or reducing, alcohol intake, and as well as keeping a close eye on caffeine consumption.
Managing stress is also important. Avoiding periods of intense stress or anger are crucial as they can cause heart rhythm problems to develop.
People should find ways to relax and, where possible, avoid situations that may lead to stress or confrontation.
For patients with AF, steps can still be taken to avoid repeat episodes.
To achieve this, healthcare professionals can make specific recommendations to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle These may include steps to address mood and stress that will help cut the risk of AF occurring again in the future, as well as diet and exercise.
Physical activity improves health, whatever a person’s age or condition, but it must be adjusted to their own circumstances and wellbeing – sometimes under the guidance of the physician – and can range from daily walks or cycling, through to participation in sport, or swimming.
Managing other risk factors of high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, and diabetes can also improve symptoms more than weight loss alone.
Additionally, if medicines are prescribed to correct heart rhythm, they should be adhered to.
Not all cases of AF, however, can be prevented but by taking positive steps to avoid coronary artery disease or high blood pressure does reduce the risk.
In terms of diet and nutrition, following a heart-healthy Mediterranean-style diet that is high in plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fats, has heart health benefits.
Researchers have also been examining the impact of the American Heart Association (AHA) Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) approach.
It has seven modifiable factors, consisting of three health factors of cholesterol level, blood pressure, and blood glucose; and four behavioural factors of cigarette smoking, physical activity, diet, and body mass index (BMI) to define and monitor ideal cardiovascular health.
That has seen particular reviews of how the individual components of LS7 may influence the AHA’s strategic goal on AF prevention.
As the most commonly encountered arrhythmia in clinical practice, AF constitutes a major public health problem, and was one of the prompts for creating the LS7 concept.
Researchers also acknowledge that while significant advances have been made in the secondary prevention of AF, little progress has been made to prevent the first occurrence of this arrhythmia in at-risk patients.
They believe improvement of overall cardiovascular health, as defined by LS7, may reduce AF risk and by using a points system, this cardiovascular health metric could help cut the risk of AF.
AF remains difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can be intermittent.
This has seen remote monitoring increasingly used to detect and assess the presence of the condition in patients with smart devices, such as the CART-I ring cardio tracker from Sky Labs, having a role.
As the world’s first ring-type smart wearable heart rhythm monitoring medical device, it provides photoplethysmography (PPG) signals to continuously measure heart rate from screening the bloodstream 24/7 through the user’s finger to measure irregular pulse waves and potentially highlight the presence of AF.