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By Mark Lee, M.D., medical director, electrophysiology, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a condition that causes an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm. People with AFib have a five times higher risk of experiencing a stroke because of the chaotic heart rhythm that causes blood to pool in the heart’s upper chambers and form a clot. If the clot breaks free from the upper chambers, it can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. By either preventing AFib or treating it with an experienced care team like that at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center, you can lower your chances of experiencing a stroke.

Here are three ways to make your heart healthier, lower your chances of having a stroke and get your AFib under control:

Blood Pressure Check – Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common risk factor for the development of AFib. Purchasing a home cuff and maintaining a daily log of your blood pressures is a helpful way for your physician to see if blood pressure medications need to be started or adjusted. Salt is a common trigger for high blood pressure, so avoiding processed foods is beneficial.

Nutrition and Exercise – Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to your health. If you are sedentary or obese, start an exercise routine that is manageable for you. Start off easy by taking short walks and then gradually add more time. Heavy use of alcohol and caffeine can weaken your heart and trigger a stroke if you have AFib, so it’s best to watch this closely. Lastly, it can’t be emphasized enough that if you’re smoking, quitting can help lower your risk for a stroke.

Sleep Well – Sleep quantity and quality are important metrics to monitor. Lack of sleep and/or poor-quality sleep can increase your risk for developing AFib. If you have been told that you snore, a sleep study evaluation is recommended to ensure you do not have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea may cause you to experience shallow breathing or temporary pauses in breathing while you sleep, which can place stress on your heart and cause AFib. There are remedies for sleep apnea, so early diagnosis is important.

It’s important to talk with your doctor to come up with a plan that will help you achieve a healthy lifestyle while managing AFib.

At MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center we offer the latest in advanced technologies and innovative treatments to provide you with expert care for your AFib from prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. We are recognized by Healthgrades as a Five-Star Recipient for treatment of heart failure, and by U.S. News & World Report as a ‘High-Performing Hospital’ for heart attack and aortic valve surgery.

Want to learn more? Call (844) 662-6484 or visit