Caring For a Loved One With Afib

If you’re living with someone who has Atrial Fibrillation, you fully understand that health is a constant thought for both you. Here are four simple ways to ensure your loved one is living as healthily as possible.

  1. Make small diet tweaks

A person with Afib doesn’t need to adjust their diet completely, but it is especially important to make sure they are eating enough whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins, and avoid saturated fats, trans fats, and excess sodium. A simple rule of thumb is to fill half or two thirds of your plate with fruits, vegetables or whole grains, and the other half or one-third with lean protein.

The American Heart Association dedicates part of their website solely to nutrition and eating healthy. It includes tips on grocery shopping, recipes, and even eating out.

  1. Physical activity with Afib

Your loved one may be worried about overexerting themself with too much physical activity or that it may evoke symptoms of Afib such as shortness of breath or rapid heart beat, but with this condition, it’s even more important to make sure your loved one is getting some sort of exercise several times each week. Before they start exercising, it’s a good idea to talk to their cardiologist to double check their safety. After receiving permission, this article lays out some easy steps to take in the exercise journey. In short: start off slow, and build up your endurance gradually; always monitor your pulse as you work out; and be smart.

  1. Avoid harmful substances

A person with Afib should be particularly limiting of their intake of harmful substances for their condition, including tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. Smoking is the number one substance to avoid when dealing with Afib because the nicotine, which is a stimulant, can actually make symptoms worse. Helping your loved one quit the habit of smoking is one of the best things you can do for their health. As for caffeine and alcohol, moderation is key. This differs from person to person, but if your loved one finds they are having symptoms after consuming either beverage, it’s best to cut it out completely.

  1. Practice relaxation and stress reducers together

It’s very common for a person with Afib to experience episodes of stress, and unfortunately, stress is a major factor that contributes to Afib symptoms. Since caring for someone with Afib can be stressful on you too, practicing relaxation together can be mutually beneficial. With all of things we do each day, it can be hard to find time to relax, so it’s best to dedicate a time and schedule it then. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block after dinner, or practicing yoga or relaxing with meditation before going to bed. When you make time for yourself, both you and your loved one will feel happier and your stress will gradually lessen. If you need some assistance, there are several apps that you can download with voiceovers that will guide you through your relaxation practice. One favorite for meditation practice is “Headspace” (Free, iTunes App Store), where each day you will be led through a ten minute session and will have time to reflect on yourself and the present and feel relaxed immediately afterwards.

Finally, if you’re caring for someone with Afib, make sure to take care of yourself first. It’s difficult to make someone happy and healthy if you’re not feeling happy and healthy yourself.

A 23 year-old midwesterner living in sunny Southwest Florida.

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Posted in Care, Lifestyle

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