- Dos and Don’ts for Eating Well With Atrial Fibrillation
- Arrhythmias: Foods That Affect Heart Rate
- Topic Overview
- Do you need treatment?
- Living with Arrhythmias
- Clinical Trials
- 20 BEST DIET TIPS TO PREVENT ATRIAL FIBRILLATION
- You will agree with me that because atrial fibrillation is so big shock, you will do anything to try and prevent it. Diet tips to prevent afib may only be one of the guns you use to shoot down the AFIB monster, but it is a BIG gun! Here’s the deal.
- 7 tips for a better heartbeat
- Low-carb diet tied to common heart rhythm disorder
Dos and Don’ts for Eating Well With Atrial Fibrillation
Diet plays a significant role in managing atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that can cause dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. In addition to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, if you have atrial fibrillation — often simply called Afib — you should avoid foods that increase your blood pressure or heart rate, or any unhealthy foods that can cause heart problems. Maintaining proper vitamin and mineral levels is important, too. Follow these dos and don’ts for a safe and nutritious Afib diet.
Don’t Eat Too Much Salt
Salt may be used in countless dishes, but consuming too much isn’t a good thing: Salt raises your blood pressure, and high blood pressure increases your chances of experiencing atrial fibrillation symptoms. Ways to manage your salt intake include rinsing canned foods, especially beans, to wash off excess salt; avoiding salty foods such as chips, nuts, and canned soups; and not adding extra salt to your food, says Chester Hedgepeth, MD, PhD, chief of cardiology at Kent Hospital in Warwick, R.I. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day if you have high blood pressure. To add flavor to foods without using salt, experiment with herbs and spices.
Don’t Drink Caffeinated Beverages
Pass on the soda, energy drinks, and double-shot espressos to better manage atrial fibrillation, Dr. Hedgepeth says. Caffeine increases your heart rate and makes you more susceptible to an Afib episode or other heart arrhythmias. Consider drinking decaffeinated coffees or teas and water instead. To liven up plain water, add a slice of lemon or lime, or drink natural fruit juice for a sweet treat.
Do Keep Animal Fats in Check
“Sticking to a modest fat and cholesterol intake can help to lower your risk for heart problems, such as arrhythmias like Afib,” Hedgepeth says. Meats that are high in fat include organ meats, beef, lamb, sausage, dark-meat poultry and poultry skin, and bacon. High-fat dairy products include whole milk, heavy cream, ice cream, and full-fat cheeses. Instead, choose lean protein sources, such as beans, lentils, and fish, and low-fat dairy.
Do Eat Healthy Fats
Not all fats are bad in a heart-healthy diet, says Lisa Cimperman, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. Foods high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and seeds, are good additions to your diet when eaten in moderation. Polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can be beneficial for overall heart health. Omega-3s are found in foods such as salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed. Foods with these fatty acids reduce the risk for arrhythmias, decrease triglyceride levels, and slow plaque formation.
Do Use Caution When Eating Leafy Greens
It’s okay to eat leafy green vegetables — just keep your daily intake consistent if you’re on the blood-thinning drug warfarin. That’s because leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, and spring onions have high levels of vitamin K, which can interfere with how warfarin works, especially if you eat large quantities. However, if you’re only taking aspirin as a blood thinner for Afib, you don’t have to worry because vitamin K doesn’t affect aspirin.
Don’t Drink Alcohol
Even in what may seem like modest amounts, alcohol can trigger an Afib event. Avoid drinking alcohol in quantities beyond moderation — which is considered to be anything more than one drink a day for women and two for men, says John P. Higgins, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at UTHealth Medical School, director of exercise physiology at Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute, and chief of cardiology at Harris Health System Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, all in Houston. If this seems difficult, talk with your doctor about setting appropriate limits for you.
Don’t Eat Foods High in Tyramine
Foods with the compound tyramine can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for Afib symptoms, Hedgepeth says. Foods that have high levels of tyramine include:
- Aged cheeses, such as aged Cheddar, Swiss, blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola, and Camembert
- Cured meats, which are meats treated with salt and nitrate or just nitrite, such as dry-type summer sausages, pepperoni, and salami
- Fermented cabbage, such as sauerkraut and kimchee
- Certain sauces, including soy sauce, fish sauce, and shrimp sauce
- Yeast-extract spreads, such as Marmite
- Broad bean pods, such as fava beans
Tyramine isn’t an ingredient, but a naturally-occurring compound, so it isn’t listed on food labels. If you’re unsure which foods to cut from your diet, talk to your doctor or a dietitian.
Do Use Heart-Smart Cooking Methods
Cooking heart-healthy foods is easier than it may seem. As long as you start with a lean cut of meat, baking, roasting, or sauteing will allow maximum flavor with minimal fat, Cimperman says. Poaching and steaming are great ways to cook vegetables and even fish with zero added fat.
Do Add Color to Your Dinner Plate
A variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure that your diet contains disease-fighting antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and other phytochemicals. Aim to fill half your plate with colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables, Cimperman advises. This will also help keep your weight in check, which is key to preventing a host of ailments, including heart disease and cancer.
Don’t Risk Food Poisoning
Certain illnesses, like food poisoning, can quickly lead to dehydration and deplete essential nutrients. If you have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, you can lose a significant amount of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. This can increase your risk for Afib events and even heart failure, says William R. Lewis, MD, chief of clinical cardiology at MetroHealth Medical Center and professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, both in Cleveland. Hedgepeth suggests managing such illnesses by quickly rehydrating with an electrolyte solution. Electrolyte abnormalities affect normal electrical activity in the heart and can potentially cause arrhythmias such as Afib.
To avoid food poisoning, cook foods such as meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly, and avoid eating foods that have been sitting out for a long time, especially those containing dairy.
Arrhythmias: Foods That Affect Heart Rate
Certain types of foods tend to aggravate certain arrhythmias .
Your doctor might recommend that you avoid specific foods that can trigger your arrhythmia. To keep your heart as healthy as possible, try to eat heart-healthy foods .
Many people have thought that caffeine causes arrhythmias. It is a stimulant. It can raise your heart rate and may cause you to feel like your heart is skipping a beat. But a moderate amount of caffeine is not known to cause serious heart rhythm problems or make them worse. Most people who have an arrhythmia do not need to avoid chocolate or caffeinated coffee, tea, or soft drinks.
Avoiding foods and beverages known to aggravate arrhythmias
Eating certain foods and drinking certain beverages may provoke your arrhythmia. Be aware of which substances have an effect on your arrhythmia and how to avoid them. In general, small amounts of any food will not trigger an arrhythmia. But in larger quantities, some foods can aggravate your heart and cause your arrhythmia to occur or get worse. Be aware of the foods listed below, as they may trigger your arrhythmia. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor about your diet.
Alcohol can cause arrhythmias in people with normal hearts and can cause heart conditions that result in arrhythmias. People who drink heavily can develop a weak heart (alcoholic cardiomyopathy). When this occurs, they can have various arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and ventricular tachycardia. The heart may return to normal if the person stops drinking, and the risk of recurrent arrhythmias will decrease. Alcohol can directly injure heart cells and cause extra heartbeats and supraventricular tachycardias. Atrial fibrillation may occur after a drinking binge.
Fad diets: Use extra caution!
Many weight-loss diets can be harmful to your heart if you have an arrhythmia. Fad diets such as liquid-based programs or high-protein regimens can affect the concentrations of electrolytes in your bloodstream. This can, in turn, cause problems with your heart’s electrical system, which relies on electrolytes to function properly. If you have experienced an arrhythmia in the past, you should be cautious of fad diets. In order to avoid recurrences of your arrhythmia, always check with your doctor before making drastic changes to your eating habits.
When taken at higher levels, ephedra-an herb used by some people for cold and allergy symptoms and to improve sports performance-can cause drastic increases in blood pressure as well as cardiac arrhythmias. Ephedra, also called ma huang, has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and some deaths.
Do you need treatment?
Most arrhythmias are considered harmless and are left untreated. Once your doctor has documented that you have an arrhythmia, he or she will need to find out whether it’s abnormal or merely reflects the heart’s normal processes. He or she will also determine whether your arrhythmia is clinically significant – that is, whether it causes symptoms or puts you at risk for more serious arrhythmias or complications of arrhythmias in the future. If your arrhythmia is abnormal and clinically significant, your doctor will set a treatment plan. View an animation of arrhythmia.
- Especially for people with AFib, prevent blood clots from forming to reduce stroke risk
- Control your heart rate within a relatively normal range
- Restore a normal heart rhythm, if possible
- Treat heart disease/condition that may be causing arrhythmia
- Reduce other risk factors for heart disease and stroke
- Medications for arrhythmia
- Devices to help treat arrhythmias
- Treating arrhythmias in children
Living with Arrhythmias
- Take all medications exactly as prescribed.
- Never stop taking any prescription medication without first consulting your healthcare provider.
- If you have any side effects, tell your healthcare provider about them.
- Tell your healthcare provider about all your other drugs and supplements, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Download our printable medication log (PDF).
Monitor your pulse
You should know how to take your pulse – especially if you have an artificial pacemaker.
- Put the second and third fingers of one hand on the inside of the wrist of the other hand, just below the thumb OR on the side of your neck, just below the corner of your jaw.
- Feel for the pulse.
- Count the number of beats in one full minute.
- Keep a record of your pulse along with the day and time taken and notes about how you felt at the time. Use our blood pressure/pulse tracker (PDF).
Certain substances can contribute to an abnormal/irregular heartbeat, including:
- Cold and cough medications
- Appetite suppressants
- Psychotropic drugs (used to treat certain mental illnesses)
- Antiarrhythmics (paradoxically, the same drugs used to treat arrhythmia can also cause arrhythmia. Your healthcare team will monitor you carefully if you’re taking antiarrhythmic medication.)
- Beta-blockers for high blood pressure
- Street drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and “speed” or methamphetamines
If you’re being treated for arrhythmia and use any of these substances, be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
Manage your risk factors
Just having certain arrhythmias increases your risk of heart attack, cardiac arrest and stroke. Work with your healthcare team and follow their instructions to control other risk factors:
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Control cholesterol levels
- Lose excess weight
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Avoid tobacco smoke
- Enjoy regular physical activity
Take it one day at a time
Researchers continue to investigate arrhythmias, and they’re making progress. The best thing you can do is to follow your treatment plan and take things one day at a time. Sometimes you may feel that you don’t get the support you need and that the people around you aren’t very understanding. That’s common, because others don’t easily see your symptoms. It’s hard for them to understand that you might be struggling sometimes to function normally. Help others to understand by educating them about your condition and by asking for support to help follow your treatment program.
Clinical trials are scientific studies that determine if a possible new medical advance can help people and whether it has harmful side effects. Find answers to common questions about clinical trials in our Guide to Understanding Clinical Trials.
20 BEST DIET TIPS TO PREVENT ATRIAL FIBRILLATION
Janco VorsterFollow Aug 21, 2016 · 9 min read
You will agree with me that because atrial fibrillation is so big shock, you will do anything to try and prevent it. Diet tips to prevent afib may only be one of the guns you use to shoot down the AFIB monster, but it is a BIG gun! Here’s the deal.
The best chance you have to beat the afib dragon is……
Know as much as you can about it and then act on it.
We understand that our body is a system and everything is connected, maybe more than we think, THEREFORE!
Can you afford to ignore diet tips to prevent afib?
This post will concentrate on diet tips to prevent afib, with the understanding that your doctor, cardiologist,healthcare worker and healthy lifestyle must always be the center of your management of atrial fibrillation, and most of all.
Diet tips to prevent afib must always be seen as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
- CHECK YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE. We’re not just talking about coffee! There are mixed feelings and research about
coffee and it’s role as an afib trigger. Some studies say moderate coffee intake is unlikely to trigger an afib attack.
The fact that most people agree on is that caffeine is a stimulant and it increases your heart rate. The influence and impact of coffee can also differ from person to person.
Many other products also contain caffeine. Very important! Read the food labels.Although I know about the diet tips to prevent afib and what caffeine can do, I made a boo boo! During a cycle training ride, I drank a caffeine-filled energy drink handed to me from a cycling friend. How bad could it be, I thought, but a day after the ride I was in afib.Rooibos tea is a wonderful alternative to drinking coffee.
2. AVOID PROCESSED AND FRIED FOODS. They are high in saturated fat, and that can increase the risk of heart diseases and stroke. Their nutritional value is low, and they are linked to obesity.
3. EAT A HEART-HEALTHY DIET. This means eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits, whole grains, vegetables and limiting saturated fats.
4. EAT MORE COLDWATER FISH. Coldwater fish include salmon,herring, sardines, and mackerel. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids. According to studies these, healthy fats can protect against heart arrhythmias.
5. LESS SALT! Hypertension and high blood pressure can contribute to afib. That is the reason why you should limit your intake of sodium. Processed foods is a big culprit! Read food labels and limit salt when cooking and at the table.
6. CHECK YOUR WEIGHT. We all know being overweight is not good for your heart. One of the many reasons is that it contributes to sleep apnea. This in one of the big risk factors for afib.
Obesity and high blood pressure can also increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. This is one of the most important diet tips to prevent afib. That’s not all…
7. NOT TO MUCH OF THE OTHER STUFF! (ALCOHOL)
Check your intake of alcohol. Moderate intake of alcohol usually does not increase the risk of afib, but binge drinking does. Many afibbers have stopped drinking alcohol, because of their personal experiences of the alcohol/afib mix. That is not the case with all afib sufferers. I enjoy light beers and red wine from time to time, but always check my intake. The combination of alcohol and dehydration, that usually results from too much alcohol intake, is very dangerous and creates the ideal situation for an afib attack.
There is a possible link between alcohol consumption and vagal tone which can play a role in afib.
The vagus is a large nerve in the neck, and increased vagal activity can lead to atrial fibrillation.
Another study by Yan Liang and others showed an increase in afib among people aged 55 and older, when there was moderate to high alcohol intake. So be careful with alcohol! Drink Rooibos tea!
8. DRINK ENOUGH OF THE RIGHT STUFF!
Mostly water to stop dehydration. It frequently occurs when traveling
because you are out of your usual eating and drinking habit. Skipping meals usually decrease’s fluid intake. The more dangerous situation is when vomiting and diarrhea occurs. The loss of potassium and the depletion of electrolytes has an enormous effect on the functioning of your heart.
The large volume of fluid loss is not always replaced that quickly.Any person susceptible to AFIB must be very aware of this.A combination of dehydration and exercise or activity where the heart has to work harder (faster heart rate) can trigger an AFIB attack or a worse type of arrhythmia.
Sometimes dehydration is overlooked as an AFIB trigger. Keep water in your diet!
9. USE HEART-HEALTHY COOKING. Healthy food can become very unhealthy if you cook them the wrong way. Make more use of methods like roasting and broiling. Steam veggies for maximum flavor(I like mine crunchy).Limit butter, salt, and sugar in the cooking methods. The best part?These diet tips to prevent afib will also be good for your waist!
10. WHOLEGRAINS ARE WHOLESOME! They still have their outer shell, and that’s where most of the fiber and nutrients hide. Try whole-grain oatmeal for a starter, and educate yourself on what foods are wholegrain and available in your local shops.
11. GRAPEFRUIT AND PILLS? The powerful chemical called naringenin in grapefruit juice can interfere with the effectiveness of antiarrhythmic drugs like amiodarone (Cordarone) and dofetilide (Tikosyn). It can also affect the absorption of medication into the blood stream.
12. FEED YOUR BRAIN.
Not only with the most nutritious food, but also with knowledge. Prevention is the best cure! So the more you know about what to eat and what to avoid, the safer you will feel and become. Know what works for you. Alcohol and coffee intake are good examples of knowing what you can handle and what not.Talk to your doctor and ask many questions.With new research there may be new diet tips to prevent afib, so keep up to date with blogs and news on afib.
13. KEEP UP THE POTASSIUM! There may be an increase in the risk of arrhythmia if your potassium levels are low. It is an important nutrient for cardiac health, and allows muscles to work efficiently. Enough potassium is usually consumed with a balanced diet. The problem is excessive potassium loss, mostly from vomiting or diarrhea. There are also some other causes of potassium loss.
- Many people only think, bananas! When you mention potassium, but there are other foods that have more potassium than a banana. Some of them are:sweet potato, avocado, White beans, yogurt, and spinach. And there are more.
14. LOOK OUT FOR TYRAMINE. Tyramine can raise your blood pressure and bring on an afib attack. It can act as adrenaline on the heart and over-stimulate it.These are just some of the foods that have high levels of tyramine: Blue cheeses like Stilton, Gorgonzola, and Camembert. Aged cheeses like cheddar and Swiss cheese. Cured meats that include pepperoni and salami. Fermented cabbage like sauerkraut and kimchee. Certain sauces like soy and fish sauce. Yeast extract spreads such as Marmite and also broad bean pods like fava beans.
Tyramine will not be listed on food labels because it is a naturally-occurring compound.If you want to learn more speak to your doctor, dietitian or Mr Google.
15. AND VITAMIN K? If you are taking warfarin (Coumadin) to thin your blood you must be careful about how your intake of Vitamin K may reduce the effectiveness of warfarin. According toGreg Feld, MD, patients can keep on eating veggies and salads. They must just not make any sudden changes in their diet, and keep on talking to their doctor about it.
16. AVOID FOOD POISONING. OK! none of us go out and try to get food poisoning. The reason I mention it under diet tips to prevent afib is because food poisoning can quickly deplete essential nutrients. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and fever make you lose nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium.And therefore, during and after symptoms like these you must re-hydrate with an electrolyte solution.
If electrolyte imbalances are not rectified quickly they can affect the normal electrical activity in the heart. This can cause atrial fibrillation(AFIB).
17. GET MORE MAGNESIUM IN YOUR DIET!
Your heart needs and loves magnesium. It is one of the electrolytes that helps the electrical functioning of the heart. If you have afib or any arrhythmia the doctor will most probably check your magnesium levels, as a standard test. If your levels are low you may even get magnesium intravenously (and it works!)
Most people in America do not get in, enough magnesium. You can test your magnesium levels with three types of test. The Serum Magnesium test is the standard one but can be inaccurate. The EXAtest is the best one, but more expensive.
First, try and get in more magnesium with magnesium rich foods, and remember to get into the sun. The vitamin D that you get from the sun will help with magnesium absorption. If that does not do the trick, use magnesium supplements.How can you acctually use this?Get magnesium through your skin with magnesium oils and Epsom Salts.
THAT’S NOT ALL….
18. WHAT ABOUT MSG? MSG is, Monosodium glutamate, and is commonly added to Chinese food, soups, canned vegetables and processed meats as a flavor enhancer. It is “generally recognized as safe”and it must be listed on food labels according to the FDA.
Researchers have found , but there have been countless anecdotal reports of a possible link.There may be short-term reactions to MSG according to researchers. Can this short term reaction put your heart into AFIB? Many people say Yes! Specific research must be undertaken on this.Cut it out of your diet, if you are unsure. If you are brave, experiment!
19. ASPARTAME? People prone to get afib were found to be sensitive to MSG and the artificial sweetener Aspartame in two “Lone” AFIB surveys . Dr Burkhart mentioned that both of these two chemicals excite cardiac tissue, and therefore…….
He further suggested that is would be beneficial to eliminate MSG and Aspartame from an AFIB patients diet.
20. DO NOT OVERINDULGE! BE KIND TO YOUR VAGUS NERVE.
This vagal or vagus nerve that extends from the base of the skull to the abdomenhelps regulate heart rate. Reduction in heart rate is usually the result of the activation of the vagus nerve. Overindulging in food, and specifically spicy food, as well as alcohol, can lead to the vagus nerve misfiring, and ending in arrhythmia and AFIB.Many AFIB forums are full of people talking about this vagal-afib symptoms, due to a bloated or full stomach, but it can not always be proved scientifically.My own experience is that I could not explain this vagal-afib feeling to my doctor, because. I always felt so stupid for thinking that my stomach had something to do with my heart.
The conclusion that I made (my own explanation, don’t know if it makes sense) was that because my stomach was full or bloated it touched my heart and that was why I “felt” my heart.
So far as I can recall I never went into AFIB because of a full stomach but I did experience an irregular heartbeat in many cases when my stomach was full or bloated.Trying to understand the vagus nerve has given me new insight into my “hard heartbeats” and irregular heartbeats when I’ve had a full or bloated stomach.
Remember to always consult your doctor about any diet changes.
In conclusion, I did not include lifestyle issues like smoking, exercise, cough medicines, prescription medicine, drugs, inhalers in this post, but may delve into it on a later stage. Visit me at http://www.myafibheart.com/blog/
7 tips for a better heartbeat
By: health enews Staff
The adage “you are what you eat” may hold true for those suffering from atrial fibrillation (AFib) as diet may help control, or even prevent, its symptoms.
AFib is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. According to the American Heart Association, AFib is the most common heart rhythm disorder with more than 2.7 million Americans living with the condition.
“Avoiding certain foods can reduce an AFib episode,” says Dr. Manoj Duggal, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Therefore, making smart food choices is imperative for overall heart health and managing AFib symptoms.
Dr. Duggal suggests these seven tips to help manage atrial fibrillation:
- Reduce salt intake. Reducing the consumption of salt helps control blood pressure and reduces both the symptoms and the development of AFib.
- Load up on fish and seafood. These foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to reduce harmful inflammation and heart arrhythmias.
- Eat your fruits and veggies. Antioxidants help protect your body from cellular damage that contributes to heart disease. Fruits such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries and prunes and vegetables including asparagus and beets are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to reduce heart rhythm disorders.
- Eat foods rich in potassium. Potassium-rich foods such as bananas, white beans, and yogurt (plain) are known to reduce your risk.
- Watch the caffeine. Stimulants, such as caffeinated products including coffee, energy drinks, excessive chocolate and over-the-counter cough and cold medications can increase the risk for AFib.
- Don’t drink excessively. High alcohol consumption can increase AFib episodes and hinder therapy outcomes.
- Broil don’t fry. Healthier ways of cooking, such as broiling, roasting or steaming, helps lower the intake of saturated fats, which are not good for your heart.
Dr. Duggal cautions that while healthy eating is important to help control AFib episodes, medication and surgical procedures may be needed to control more advanced AFib.
Low-carb diet tied to common heart rhythm disorder
The study, which analyzed the health records of nearly 14,000 people spanning more than two decades, is the first and largest to assess the relationship between carbohydrate intake and AFib. With AFib, a type of arrhythmia, the heart doesn’t always beat or keep pace the way it should, which can lead to palpitations, dizziness and fatigue. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke than people without the condition. It can also lead to heart failure.
Restricting carbohydrates has become a popular weight loss strategy in recent years. While there are many different low-carbohydrate diets including the ketogenic, paleo and Atkins diets, most emphasize proteins while limiting intake of sugars, grains, legumes, fruits and starchy vegetables.
“The long-term effect of carbohydrate restriction is still controversial, especially with regard to its influence on cardiovascular disease,” said Xiaodong Zhuang, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at the hospital affiliated with Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and the study’s lead author. “Considering the potential influence on arrhythmia, our study suggests this popular weight control method should be recommended cautiously.”
The findings complement previous studies, several of which have associated both low-carbohydrate and high-carbohydrate diets with an increased risk of death. However, while previous studies suggested the nature of the non-carbohydrate component of the diet influenced the overall pattern observed, the new study did not.
“Low carbohydrate diets were associated with increased risk of incident AFib regardless of the type of protein or fat used to replace the carbohydrate,” Zhuang said.
Researchers drew data from Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC), a study overseen by the National Institutes of Health that ran from 1985-2016. Of the nearly 14,000 people who did not have AFib when they enrolled in the study, researchers identified nearly 1,900 participants who were subsequently diagnosed with AFib during an average of 22 years of follow-up.
Study participants were asked to report their daily intake of 66 different food items in a questionnaire. The researchers used this information along with the Harvard Nutrient Database to estimate each participant’s daily carbohydrate intake and the proportion of daily calories that came from carbohydrates. On average, carbohydrates comprised about half of calories consumed. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of total daily calorie intake.
Researchers then divided participants into three groups representing low, moderate and high carbohydrate intake, reflecting diets in which carbohydrates comprised less than 44.8 percent of daily calories, 44.8 to 52.4 percent of calories, and more than 52.4 percent of calories, respectively.
Participants reporting low carbohydrate intake were the most likely to develop AFib. These participants were 18 percent more likely to develop AFib than those with moderate carbohydrate intake and 16 percent more likely to develop AFib than those with high carbohydrate intake.
Several potential mechanisms could explain why restricting carbohydrates might lead to AFib, Zhuang said. One is that people eating a low-carbohydrate diet tend to eat fewer vegetables, fruits and grains — foods that are known to reduce inflammation. Without these foods people may experience more inflammation, which has been linked with AFib. Another possible explanation is that eating more protein and fat in lieu of carbohydrate-rich foods may lead to oxidative stress, which has also been associated with AFib. Finally, the effect could be related to an increased risk of other forms of cardiovascular disease.
Zhuang said that while the research shows an association, it cannot prove cause and effect. A randomized controlled trial would be needed to confirm the relationship between carbohydrate intake and AFib and assess the effect in a more ethnically diverse population. In addition, the study did not track participants with asymptomatic AFib or those who had AFib but were never admitted to a hospital, nor did it investigate different subtypes of AFib, so it is unknown whether patients were more likely to have occasional episodes of arrhythmia or persistent AFib. The study did not account for any changes in diet that participants may have experienced after completing the questionnaire.