Beta blockers are prescribed to treat heart problems, anxiety such as “performance anxiety” or stage fright, and high blood pressure. They work by blocking adrenaline, but they must not be prescribed to people who suffer from asthma and specific heart or arterial conditions; a doctor’s advice must always be sought first.
There are many foods that can act as natural beta blockers. To feel the benefits, it is important to consume these foods as part of a balanced diet.
- Fruits, Vegetables and Pulses
- Meat, Fish and Dairy
- Herbs and Flowers
- Calcium Channel Blockers, Beta Blockers Natural Alternatives
- Beta Blockers Natural Alternatives Will Help Your High Blood Pressure – Without the Side Effects
- 10 BEST Natural Beta Blockers for Anxiety
- Natural Remedies and Alternate Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation
- Avoid Substances That Stimulate or Irritate Your Heart
- Consider Helpful Herbals and Supplements
- Restore an Energy-Deficient Atrium in the Heart
- Exercise for Atrial Fibrillation Prevention
- Stress Reduction Protects Your Heart
- Stroke Prevention Steps
- Medicare Coverage
- Proven Results
- Managing atrial fibrillation: An update
- New guidelines provide advice on the role of drugs, weight loss, and procedures to cope with this common heart rhythm disorder.
Fruits, Vegetables and Pulses
Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
Potassium, like beta blockers, can reduce the risk of hypertension and therefore heart problems. Potassium is found in most fruit and vegetables, but the highest levels are found in bananas, potatoes, white beans, raisins and orange juice.
Pomegranates contain antioxidants that help fight cancer, thin the blood and lower cholesterol levels, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease. Pomegranate juice is becoming popular as a natural beta blocker.
The amino acid GABA is a natural tranquilizer that reduces anxiety and is also used to treat epilepsy and hypertension. It is destroyed by cooking but is found in raw spinach, almonds, walnuts and citrus fruits.
Meat, Fish and Dairy
Red meat, turkey, shellfish and tuna contain the amino acid tryptophan, which reduces stress levels and helps to produce serotonin. Seafood, pork and beef contain the L-arginine amino acid, which reduces blood pressure. Dairy products are good sources of both. Most meats are also good sources of potassium, and beef liver contains the amino acid GABA.
Herbs and Flowers
Chamomile tea is high in antioxidants and helps to induce sleep and relaxation. The flower and leaves of the passionflower can also be made into a tea that has sedative effects, reducing anxiety and fighting insomnia. Passionflower is also available in capsule form, but medical advice must be sought before taking, as it can have unwanted side effects.
Inula racemosa is a herb usually found at high altitudes that has an analgesic effect. A study by the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at Banaras Hindu University in India found that the root powder of the herb had a beneficial effect on patients with heart disease.
St. John’s Wort is used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, and is available in tablet, tea or liquid form. But it must not be taken before consulting a medical professional first.
Calcium Channel Blockers, Beta Blockers Natural Alternatives
Beta Blockers Natural Alternatives Will Help Your High Blood Pressure – Without the Side Effects
If you have high blood pressure, you definitely need to do something about it. High blood pressure means you have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Doctors often treat high blood pressure with beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.
But taking them over a long period of time can lead to dangerous side-effects, including possibly making your heart muscle and some blood vessels weaker. Beta blockers may also cause impotence, fatigue, and can also cause your cholesterol levels to increase.
Natural remedies are of course much more green and eco friendly. They’re better for the environment, and they don’t have side-effects so they’re better for you too.
So it just makes sense to look for beta blockers natural alternatives, and make sure you check your health regularly to make sure you’re still on track.
Let’s look at some calcium channel blockers and beta blockers natural alternatives. They all can help to reduce your blood pressure without dangerous side effects.
One of the most important things you can do is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
This means eating whole foods as much as possible and eliminating processed foods containing preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and sugars. Lots of yummy fresh vegetables and fruit are key!
(Eating this way is good for your overall health anyway).
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Something else that’s important when you have high blood pressure is to reduce your sodium (salt) intake. But the good news is that when you eat healthily and avoid processed foods, you’ll do that naturally!
Drinking more water will also help your body to eliminate toxins and naturally reduce your blood pressure.
How much water do you need to drink? Well, a commonly used measurement is to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces. (That’s quite a lot of water!).
So, for example, a 150 pound person should drink around 75 ounces of water. In metric, if you weigh about 68kg, you should drink about 2 litres of water a day.
If you weigh more than that, drink more water. Less than that, drink less.
Although a healthy diet will provide most of the nutrients that you need, you may wish to consider some supplements that are very useful for helping with high blood pressure.
- Adding Co-Q10, a coenzyme that helps your body to perform processes more efficiently, can help to protect your heart.
- L-taurine and L-carnitine are also essential to your heart function. These are amino acids that your body needs in order to protect your cells.
Taking these supplements on a daily basis is associated with decreased risk of heart attack, arrhythmia, and stroke. Chat to your health professional to find out if you are getting enough of these items naturally through your diet. If not, consider the supplements.
Natural alternatives are often better than drugs, especially if you need to take them long-term. But be sure to regularly check your blood pressure levels and heart health, to make sure you’re still on the right track.
An anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself – it has loads of benefits for all aspects of your health – and there are no side-effects! Drink lots of water too, to remove toxins and help improve your circulation. Add some heart-specific supplements as well if you wish, although a healthy diet should provide most of what you need.
Do you have high blood pressure, or know someone who does? Do you take medication, or do you rely on natural alternatives? Let me know in the comments below.
10 BEST Natural Beta Blockers for Anxiety
Beta Blockers are a group of drugs that prevent norepinephrine and adrenaline from binding with beta receptors on your nerves. Generally, beta blockers are used in order to reduce heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and reduce anxiety.
However, many of these drugs require doctor’s prescriptions and can have adverse effects including diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and fatigue.
Fortunately, nature has provided many natural beta blockers that can prove exceptionally effective in combating anxiety and depression. The list below ranks the top 10 natural anti-anxiety supplements in order of proven effectiveness, however depending on YOUR own personal needs and biochemistry you may find products higher on the list more effective for you. Enjoy!
L-Theanine is an uncommon amino acid found in tea that is very useful as a relaxer. Unlike other substances like alcohol, L-theanine has the unique function of being able to relax and decrease anxiety without sedating the individual. It is becoming increasingly popular to pair with caffeine, as it reduces the popular stimulant’s harsh effects (jitters & crash). L-Theanine is cheap, fast acting, and effective with little to no side effects, making it our favorite natural beta-blocking supplement.
A study conducted on 20 healthy male volunteers showed L-Theanine’s ability to boost alpha wave receptors, which are known to reduce anxiety and improve overall concentration. Read the full study here.
L-Theanine is usually taken in dosages between 100-200 mg and typically alongside caffeine.
L-Theanine has a unique synergistic effect with caffeine that heightens attention, focus, and cognition. Although you can find L-Theanine in teas, you likely won’t be able to get an adequate dose through tea alone.
VitaDirect offers verifiably clean products at incredibly low prices – we highly recommend.
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2. Kava Extract
Kava has been drunk for centuries throughout the south pacific as an anxiety reducer. In recent years the effectiveness of kava has been shown to be almost as potent as pharmaceuticals. Kava has been shown to decrease anxiety, boost subjective well-being, decrease depression and improve sleep quality.
There are many forms of kava and many different ways to supplement your diet with it. There is only one active ingredient in kava called kavalactones and this percentage usually indicates the potency of the kava extract. Traditionally it is ingested as a drink that is brewed at a low concentration of kavalactones but it also comes in other forms such as LI 150, which can be 13-20 times more concentrated than the basic root extract. Another form is WS 1490 which is branded as laitan 50 and contains 70% kavalactones.
For an effective dose to combat anxiety and/or depression you will want around 250 mg of the active kavalactones. That means that for the bottle at left that comes in 250 mg capsules at 30% kavalactone concentration, you would need to take about 3 capsules/day in order to receive the proper effective dosage.
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Also known as Withania Somnifera is an herb that has been used for centuries in Indian medicine. Ashwagandha is a very powerful anti-anxiety supplement that has been shown to reduce stress levels, decrease anxiety, relieve insomnia and stress-induced depression.
It is also substantially effective in reducing the immunosuppressive effects of stress which justify it being a recommended for cancer patients.
An effective dose of ashwagandha is between 300-500 mg although doses of even 6,000 mg can be ideal depending on the situation. Taking the herb once a day in the morning is ideal for the average consumer.
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Inositol is a very safe supplement to take even at extremely high doses. On the flip side, it usually requires high doses of inositol to have an anti-stress or anti-depressant effects.
A standard dose of inositol can range from 14-18g per day. That means with the 750 mg capsules you’ll have to take 20 capsules/day in order to get the proper effectiveness. That might seem like a pain and expensive but at only 10 cents a capsule it’s only $2/day and might be worth trying out.
Inositol has been shown to be very effective treating panic attacks, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, weight and PCOS.
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5. Fish Oil
Fish Oil is practically the solution to every ailment or deficiency so it’s no surprise that it’s also been found to be effective as a natural beta blocker. Omega-3 fish oil consists of two kinds of fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that are typically found in fish. The effects of fish oil increase brain activity and require days or even weeks of supplementation to be effective.
The average dose of fish oil can range tween 250 mg to 1 gram daily as recommended by the American Heart Association. Quick tip: In order to mask the “fish burp” you can take fish oils with meals.
Fish oil has been linked to lowering blood pressure, triglycerides, depression, anxiety, and a full host of other things and since it’s so cheap there’s not much to lose in trying it out.
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6. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is an ancient Indian herb that is most commonly used as a focus and memory enhancer, however the supplement is also effective as a natural beta blocker for anxiety.
Bacopa monnieri is particularly interesting because it is often used to improve cognition and it does so by reducing anxiety and allowing the brain to perform better. If you’re looking for decreased anxiety, this supplement might bring you some added perks.
The standard dose of Bacopa is about 165 mg of active bacosides. So depending on the percentage of active ingredients you may need to take 1 to two capsules accordingly. NutriGold has about 100 mg of active bacosides per capsule so you may choose to take 2 capsules/day.
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5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is mostly responsible for mood, appetite and sleep. Supplementing with 5-HTP directly correlates with increased serotonin production for increased happiness and reduced depression in those lacking serotonin.
In addition to improving anxiety and depression, 5-HTP has been shown to decrease appetite and help with weight loss.
A typical dose of 5-HTP is 300-500 mg taken daily in once or divided into two doses. If you’re experiencing any anxiety over your weight, this might be the perfect supplement for you because it will reduce anxiety and also help you feel fuller faster.
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8. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is a Scandinavian herb and part of traditional Chinese Medicine, which claimed the herb promoted physical and cognitive vitality. Rhodiola Rosea is particularly effective as an anti-fague supplement. Whether fatigue is a result of physical, emotional or mental exertion, rhodiola is effective at reducing the effects of stress on the mind and body.
Supplementation of rhodiola rosea has been linked to decreased fatigue depression and stress and improved subjective well-being, and cognition.
Standard dosage of rhodiola rosea is around 300-700 mg per day. SupernovaNaturals has a great product that has the appropriate concentration of the active ingredients (rosavins and salidroside) in a 500 mg capsule. One capsule per day should be sufficient to experience the benefits of rhodiola rosea.
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Lavender is a unique plant that can temporarily alleviate anxiety, improve sleep quality and help with insomnia. There is also some evidence that lavender may even help with those suffering from dementia as well.
Typical dosage of lavender is between 80-160 mg when it contains between 25-46% linalool. However, many of the effects of lavender can also be achieved simply through aromatherapy and most lavender products offer the herb as such and not as an orally ingested product.
Reviews of lavender aromatherapy on amazon are very positive among the general population.
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In developed countries, magnesium is the second most common deficiency after Vitamin D. Magnesium is responsible for regulating many processes within the body. A depleted level of magnesium can cause high blood pressure, neural excitation, and reduced glucose tolerance.
Maintaining proper levels of magnesium helps protect against depression and even ADHD in children.
A standard dose of magnesium greatly depends on your diet but it can range from 200-400 mg and luckily there is not problem with taking more magnesium than your body needs.
Check out our massive magnesium guide here.
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Atrial fibrillation is a potentially serious abnormal heart rhythm that affects an estimated 2.2 million Americans. This disorder occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart fall out of sync with the two lower chambers. As a result, the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently, causing weakness, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath. These episodes can be occasional and harmless – if so, no treatment is required. However, they can also be chronic and life-threatening. In that case, medication and other conventional treatments are needed to restore normal heart rhythm and help prevent formation of blood clots. If a clot that develops in the atria (the heart’s small upper chambers) travels to an artery in the brain and lodges there, the result can be a stroke.
If your physician has recommended medication for your atrial fibrillation, I urge you to fill the prescription and take the drug as directed.
You might also consider yoga. A small study at the University of Kansas Hospital found that regular yoga sessions (two one-hour sessions per week for three months plus yoga practice at home) lowered the number of atrial fibrillation episodes by nearly 45 percent in a group of 49 patients. Practicing yoga also improved quality of life, eased depression and decreased the anxiety reported by some of the study participants. Before beginning the yoga sessions, patients performed any exercise of their choice for three months, during which they continued to have nearly twice the number of atrial fibrillation palpitations they later had while practicing yoga. All of the patients were taking anticoagulant and anti-arrhythmic drugs. Because this study was small, had no control group and only a short duration of follow-up, the results are regarded as preliminary. But they do suggest that yoga can have a positive effect on atrial fibrillation, as well as on the anxiety and depression that affect some patients.
In addition, newly published research suggests that more than half of all cases of atrial fibrillation could be prevented by addressing common heart disease risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. For the study, published online March 28, 2011, by the journal Circulation, researchers collected data on more than 14,000 men and women, with an average age of 54. All had participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study that looked at heart disease among people living in four communities in North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland or Minnesota in the late1990’s. During 17 years of follow-up, 1,520 of the participants developed atrial fibrillation. The investigators ascribed 57 percent of these cases to one or more heart disease risk factors. The biggest risk was high blood pressure, which was linked to 24 percent of the cases.
If you have any risk factors for heart disease, making an effort to lower them is important for your heart health in general, as well as for your atrial fibrillation. In addition, I recommend the following measures:
- Practice my relaxing breath exercise to reduce the harmful effects of stress on your heart.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, all of which can set off the abnormal heart rhythms, and avoid any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter) that speed your heart rate as well as any stimulant herbs such as guaraná, kola nut, and yerba maté you may be using.
- Get regular physical activity (this helps with stress reduction, weight loss, and is one of the most effective natural remedies for high blood pressure).
- Follow a protein-rich diet to ensure that you’re getting enough magnesium and potassium, minerals that may prevent some arrhythmias. I also advise taking 500 mg of magnesium citrate or a chelated form of magnesium twice a day and an equal dose of calcium, if needed, to offset magnesium’s laxative effect.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Natural Remedies and Alternate Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation
One of the things I hear most often from my patients is, “I don’t want to take drugs. What are my alternatives? Are there any ways to treat atrial fibrillation naturally?”
I do live in a state where people have a tremendous interest in natural therapies. Numerous herbal and nonherbal supplement companies are based in Utah. Also, many marketing companies bring these therapies directly to your home. In this environment, it’s not uncommon for me to be asked these questions multiple times in one day.
Most of the time, patients are nervous about asking questions about nontraditional approaches in medicine. The nervous feelings often stem from fears of the physician not understanding, or approving, of alternative approaches. Some may feel that these approaches may be in opposition to what the physician may want.
In my practice, I want my patients to feel comfortable discussing any matter with me. I want to learn about their use of herbal and nonherbal supplements. If they have a new agent that has brought them benefit, I typically will research it to learn more about the substance and the potential health-related benefits or risks. Because use of herbal and nonherbal supplements and alternative approaches to health care has increased dramatically, it’s important that patients and physicians discuss these therapies without any hesitation.
What are the natural or alternative therapies available to treat, or possibly prevent, atrial fibrillation? These include things to avoid, and things to consider trying.
Avoid Substances That Stimulate or Irritate Your Heart
Caffeine: The most common approach my patients try when developing atrial fibrillation is to try and stop all caffeine intake. The most common sources of caffeine in my patients are sodas, energy drinks and supplements, and coffee. Many of these substances have not been directly studied to see if they increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
However, extensive work has looked at coffee consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation. In a large study from Denmark from the 2005 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed 47,949 patients for an average of five to six years. Across all levels of coffee consumption, the researchers did not find any correlation with risk of atrial fibrillation. In a second study involving 33,638 healthy women who participated in the Women’s Health Study and were followed for an average of 14 years, again the authors found no association with caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation risk, published September 2010 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So, even though caffeine frequently can cause symptoms of palpitations and a sense of your heart rate being elevated, I have no evidence that links it to the development of atrial fibrillation.
Energy Drinks: One of the challenges in working with patients who enjoy energy drinks it that they often contain many ingredients that can stimulate the heart in combination with very large doses of caffeine. Many times in a year I will see patients who experience heart arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, after consuming energy drinks.
Unfortunately, I have also cared for people who sustained a heart arrest while exercising and using energy drinks. The ingredient lists on these products often include known cardiac stimulants such as: tyrosine, phenylalanine, alpha lipoic acid, SAM-e, ginseng, tongkat ali, yohimbe, etc. These substances can have unpredictable effects on a heart under stress, such as with exercise. I would recommend avoiding the combination of intense exercise and consumption of these products.
Over-the-counter weight-loss products: Just like energy drinks, OTC weight-loss products often contain many different herbs and nonherbal ingredients that can act as cardiac stimulants and increase metabolism. These products can have variable effects on the heart and have unpredictable heart risks.
If you have experienced palpitations, chest pains, dizziness or other heart side effects, I would recommend to not use these products until you have consulted with your physician. If you are using these products and experience any new heart symptoms, I would again recommend discontinuing use and speaking with your physician. When you meet with your physician bring in the medication bottle so you can go over all the ingredients in detail.
Alcohol: Atrial fibrillation was noted over a century ago in a syndrome called Holiday Heart. People who drank large quantities of alcohol, had an increased risk of weakening of the heart muscle as well as fast irregular heart rhythms from the upper and lower heart chambers.
The heart condition usually stabilizes once the alcohol intake has stopped. Unfortunately, with atrial fibrillation, even small quantities in susceptible people can cause an abnormal heart rhythm. If alcohol is a trigger for your atrial fibrillation, keep a diary and you will see a pattern between your use and the development of the abnormal heart rhythm shortly thereafter, within the next few days. Fortunately, in most people moderate consumption of alcohol does not result in a significant risk of atrial fibrillation.
Marijuana: Similar to alcohol, in some people recreational marijuana use can increase risk of atrial fibrillation. We will learn more about the true risks of marijuana use and atrial fibrillation as its use becomes broader for medicinal purposes.
High doses of vitamin D: This vitamin affects how your body takes in and uses calcium. Your heart creates electrical impulses using common electrolytes in our body: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. With very high levels of calcium, the heart can more rapidly conduct electrical impulses. Atrial fibrillation is the conduction of very rapid electrical impulses at times upwards to 300 beats per minute in the upper heart chambers. When doctors look at body levels of vitamin D (derived from a blood sample) we find a much higher risk of atrial fibrillation in patients with levels higher than 100 nmol/L of vitamin D. You have to take a lot of vitamin D to reach these levels, such as a dose of 10,000 IU (international units) or more per day. Sometimes you need these types of doses if you are deficient in vitamin D. My advice is if you are taking high levels of vitamin D, don’t stop, but contact your physician, have your blood level of vitamin D measured, and adjust your dose if needed.
Consider Helpful Herbals and Supplements
Fish Oil/polyunsaturated fatty acids: Data suggest that fish oil can change the characteristics of the upper chamber of the heart. People who consume fish regularly, typically a cold-water fish species, have lower rates of atrial fibrillation and abnormal heart rhythms from the bottom heart chamber. High consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids can produce favorable changes in our body’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Of all potential natural approaches, this seemed to be the best substance to consider.
Unfortunately, trials that looked at polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet and the risk of subsequent atrial fibrillation didn’t find any lower risk of atrial fibrillation. Using polyunsaturated fatty acids didn’t reduce recurrence of atrial fibrillation in a study of 586 patients, published January 2013 in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Upfront use of polyunsaturated fatty acids may have a role in prevention of atrial fibrillation, rather than to cut back on recurrences of atrial fibrillation after the abnormal heart rhythm is present.
The type of fish may impact risk. Not all fish are alike. For example, dark meat fish (salmon, swordfish, bluefish, mackerel, and sardines) in one study increased risk, whereas other fish types lowered it, published February 2011 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Also, be aware of potential increased risk of prostate cancer with supplementation. This previously unanticipated risk with fish oil use may outweigh potential benefit.
Dietary fiber: In an interesting study of 4,526 people who were followed for at least four years, higher total fiber intake reduced risk of atrial fibrillation. In this study, published February 2011 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, total fiber was calculated from the cereals, fruit, vegetables, and legumes food groups. Depending on the amount of fiber eaten, participants had reduced their risk of atrial fibrillation by 14 to 36 percent. High-fiber food sources have a myriad of other health benefits for gastrointestinal health, on your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and levels of body inflammation. The best way that I know to begin a very heart-healthy lifestyle is to load up on whole foods, in particular fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Magnesium: If your body levels of magnesium decline, your heart can become more irritable and develop extra beats or abnormal heart rhythms. In a study of intravenous magnesium in patients who had atrial fibrillation, the likelihood of magnesium being effective in treating the abnormal rhythm was 60 percent higher in comparison to patients that received a placebo alone. We often use magnesium supplements in patients who are experiencing extra or skipped beats. I am not aware of long-term trials that show magnesium supplements alone can reduce your likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation. Magnesium can build up in your body, so if you use supplements make sure your doctor measures your body levels so magnesium doesn’t become excessive.
Anti-inflammatory herbal and nonherbal food sources: Your level of body inflammation is associated with higher risks of coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. The higher your level of body inflammation (often measured by a common blood test called CRP) the higher risk you have of developing these complications. Many food sources are considered anti-inflammatory and have been shown in very small studies to reduce body inflammation. Most of these agents have not been directly studied as approaches to treat or prevent atrial fibrillation. So we are making a bit of a jump to say they will benefit your risk of atrial fibrillation. What we are assuming is that if inflammation and atrial fibrillation are linked, and a certain food source reduces inflammation, then the food source will reduce atrial fibrillation. In the complex environment of the body, such statements are often not completely true, but most of the agents I will describe I believe in general promote healthy living anyway.
1. Olive oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil
2. Green tea
3. Dark chocolate (or products with 70 percent or more cocoa)
5. Fish (not fried)
6. Nuts – choose a variety such as walnuts, sunflower seats, almonds, pecans
7. Fruits – choose a variety such blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, or apples. Your plate should have a variety of colors, or it is not diversified enough
8. Whole grain bread can add a benefit of lowering inflammation regardless of your current lifestyle and diet.
9. Reduce how much red meat you eat
10. If you smoke, quit. Cigarette smoking in even small amounts significantly increases body levels of inflammation. This risk includes to some extent exposure to second hand smoking. Regarding all of these lifestyle measures, stopping smoking is one of the best ways to lower your body inflammation.
11. Wenxin Keli – This Chinese herb has purported benefits in reducing abnormal heart rhythms, body inflammation levels, and heart failure. Information on this herb is relatively new to us in the United States, but intriguing animal models provide us with more understanding of its potential benefits. Animals that received wenxin keli had their atrial fibrillation suppressed, and were less likely to go back into atrial fibrillation, published in January 2012 Heart Rhythm.
What’s exciting to me is that the heart rhythm effect was largely selective to the upper chambers of the heart, atria, and wenxin keli was less likely to cause abnormal heart rhythms in the lower chambers of the heart; a common problem with current medications called antiarrhythmic medications used to treat atrial fibrillation.
Restore an Energy-Deficient Atrium in the Heart
The upper chambers of the heart beat very rapidly in atrial fibrillation and, over time, the muscle can breakdown and develop fibrosis and scars that become sources of additional atrial fibrillation. A few supplements are aimed at keeping the energy stores in the heart elevated. Like many substances, no formal studies support their use in atrial fibrillation prevention or treatment.
1. Coenzyme Q-10: Coenzyme Q-10 is a naturally occurring enzyme in your body. When your heart is exposed to oxidative stress the cells can die (called apoptosis) and fibrosis can develop. Coenzyme Q-10 protects the cells from oxidative stress (which is why it’s called an antioxidant) as well as the energy store houses of the cells, the mitochondria.
In patients with heart failure, Coenzyme Q-10 may improve heart function. Heart failure is often a consequence of progressive fibrosis and scarring of the bottom chambers of the heart. There may be a similar benefit in the upper heart chambers. For now, it’s an unproven possibility, but it is an intriguing therapeutic option that needs additional study.
2. L-Carnitine: This non-essential amino acid can be synthesized by the body. Carnitine transports fatty acids to the mitochondria of the cells to be utilized for energy. People often use L-carnitine in supplement form to boost energy. By improving the energy stores of the upper chambers of the heart, scars, fibrosis, and disease progression may be reduced. You can get L-Carnitine as a supplement, but you also get this amino acid by eating red meat. However, when we consume L-Carnitine, the bacteria in our gut digest it into a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO, in mice, causes atherosclerosis which is the primary mechanism behind heart attacks and narrowed coronary arteries. In vegans, the amount of TMAO produced is much lower than in people who eat red meat, reported in Nature Medicine, May 2013. But not all studies with L-Carnitine show harm. However, with potential risk and no known benefit for atrial fibrillation, I would avoid its use for this purpose at this time.
3. Hawthorn: I find that hawthorn is used by my patients for just about every medical condition. For centuries, hawthorn people have used to treat problems with the circulation and respiratory systems. Hawthorn is an anti-oxidant and may have direct benefit to organs at risk from oxidative stress (free radicals), and cellular death, and fibrosis.
In a study of 143 patients with heart failure, patients who took Hawthorn extract reported less heart failure symptoms and had better exercise times on a bicycle exercise test, published 2003 in Phytomedicine. In another study of 2,681 patients with heart failure, hawthorn preparations reduced the risk of sudden death, published December 2008 in the European Journal of Heart Failure.
Hawthorn also has a positive impact on chest pain and may in the setting of diabetes reduce blood pressure. Many of these benefits may help reduce atrial fibrillation risk and recurrence. Use hawthorn only after talking with your physician if you have atrial fibrillation. This is because many of the common medications used to slow your heart rate in atrial fibrillation are affected by hawthorn. Examples include digoxin, metoprolol (beta blockers), and cardizem (calcium channel blockers). Also, hawthorn may increase the effect of nitrates that are used for chest pain and can result in an unsafe drop in your blood pressure.
Exercise for Atrial Fibrillation Prevention
Exercise in general promotes heart health, in addition to weight loss, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of sleep apnea. Improvement in heart health directly reduces risk of atrial fibrillation. This is particularly the case if you keep your blood pressure under control throughout your life. High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of atrial fibrillation. Similarly, sleep apnea risk goes up with weight gain. In people with sleep apnea that is untreated, the risk of atrial fibrillation nears 50 percent. Avoiding heart problems as much as possible by maintaining an ideal body weight is a very good preventative strategy.
The interesting aspect of exercise it that too much of a good thing may not be a good thing.
Male athletes with consistently low heart rates had a 60 percent increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation compared to men whose heart rates that were higher, in a study of more than 2,000 men published 2013.
In a study of 52,755 long-distance cross country skiers, those who had shorter race times and those who competed in multiple events had the highest risk of developing atrial fibrillation. The authors observed a 30 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation in the most active athletic group, published December 2013 in the European Heart Journal.
With exercise, moderation is a good thing. Look to minimize extensive training periods when your heart rate remains elevated for greater than 60 minutes a day. For those that need more exercise than this, do interval training in which rest periods are part of your routine. Autopsies of extreme endurance athletes show small regions of scar and fibrosis in all chambers of the heart. These are the very changes we are hoping to avoid to decrease risk of atrial fibrillation.
Stress Reduction Protects Your Heart
Consider two types of stress reduction.
First, the stress that we all feel related to living. This stress may come from our job, finances, relationships, local events, and tragedies. Stress causes people with and without known heart disease to have higher rates of abnormal heart rhythms from both the upper and lower heart chambers. I’m not an expert in stress reduction, but if you feel that you have too much stress in your life and if these stressful situations often result in the feeling abnormal heart rhythms, try to get help. In general, take time to engage in less stressful activities and work on your health.
Another second aspect to stress is that which our bodies feel at night. We need restorative sleep. This sleep helps maintain healthy heart function, the response of our blood vessels to the heart beats and blood flow, and to reduce the amount of abnormal heart rhythms we experience. Look towards ways to improve your quality of sleep and your sleep environment. If you have sleep apnea, use your CPAP machine to minimize body stress throughout the night.
I think Yoga is great. I can’t do yoga, but I admire those who can. Yoga helps provide exercise, core stability, and also helps with stress reduction. If you can’t do yoga, consider another moderate exercise that you enjoy and also an additional activity aimed at stress reduction.
Stroke Prevention Steps
Regarding anticoagulation that is required in most patients with atrial fibrillation, there are no proven natural substitutes. No substances that have anticoagulation properties are reliable, predictable, and proven to prevent stroke if you have atrial fibrillation. In patients with atrial fibrillation, prevention of stroke is our primary concern.
I would strongly suggest as you approach your atrial fibrillation, consider stroke prevention separately if you want to try natural therapies. The most common therapy used for stroke prevention today was a natural therapy originally discovered after cattle ate sweet clover and bled to death. The anticoagulant properties of sweet clover, used in much lower doses, were used to make the drug warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven).
These same properties are found in many other plants. These anticoagulation properties are unique in their effect in different people and are strongly influenced by other drugs or supplements you may be taking. Warfarin requires close supervision by your physician so the dose you are taking is safe. At minimum, warfarin is an example of the challenges we face as physicians in using anticoagulation to reduce your risk of stroke, but at the same time keep you safe from bleeding risks.
In summary, you can approach atrial fibrillation in many ways. I think there are many good preventative options and a lot of good alternative choices. Choose these options carefully and engage your physician as a partner so you can make the best choice for your health, happiness, and longevity.
PHOTO: Alamy; Thinkstock (2)
Lifestyle changes | Not only better but safer
And certainly, lifestyle treatment is a safer approach – risk-free, in fact – particularly compared to procedures like ablation. As Dr. Mandrola candidly writes: “It is one thing to prescribe a pill; it is yet another to deliver 60 to 80 burns to the left atrium,” which is essentially what catheter ablation does.
“Recall that patients who choose Afib ablation walk into the hospital the morning of the procedure. They may not be perfect, they have Afib after all, but they are alive and functioning. What awaits them is nothing small. They will endure 2 to 3 hours of general anesthesia, vascular access in both legs, two transseptal punctures, a fluid load, and purposeful damage to the heart…”
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Moreover, a recent, large-scale study found a complication rate of more than 6% in 93,801 patients undergoing ablation for atrial fibrillation.5 Complications included cardiac perforation, stroke, heart attacks, arterial puncture, and in-hospital death.
Also, in 1 of 4 patients repeat procedures are required.
And even when the ablation is done well, recent research found that long-term success with atrial fibrillation was five-fold lower if patients ignored the need to make healthy lifestyle improvements, and continued to live as they always have.6
Also troubling is the high rate of new brain lesions detected in MRIs after ablation. “Small brain lesions appear in about a quarter of Afib ablation patients, and cognitive decline has been reported 90 days after Afib ablation… So that is a worry when you talk about quality of life,” stated heart researcher Paulus Kirchhof, MD, of the University of Birmingham at the 2018 European Heart Rhythm Association congress in Barcelona, and reported in Medpage Today.
Ablation: Partly a Placebo?
Scientists are also questioning just how effective ablation really is. New research from Sweden found that a major portion of the assumed benefits of ablation procedures may be more placebo than real.7
Ablation: No Reductions In Strokes
Moreover, despite the popularity of ablation procedures in the surgery room, “nobody has shown any mortality benefit, no one has shown a benefit in terms of stroke reduction” in randomized, placebo-controlled trials, noted cardiologist Brian Olshanksy, MD, of the University of Iowa Medscape.
Treating Atrial Fibrillation Naturally | Bottom Line
What is needed in America is not more people with catheter skills, “but people with people skills,” argues Dr. Mandrola.
People, like the physicians and other faculty at the Pritikin health resort, who are educators. People who can teach Afib patients how to eat well, exercise well, and live well.
People, in short, who can help patients reverse the root causes of atrial fibrillation. That’s when “the vast majority of patients with Afib will enjoy the best results,” concludes Dr. Mandrola.
“From now forward, when a patient with Afib sees a doctor who recommends rhythm drugs or ablation without first exploring how that person sleeps, eats, drinks, moves, and deals with stress, it will be a signal to get another opinion.”
Treating Afib Naturally | Worldwide
It’s not just America in need of healthy lifestyle education for the prevention of Afib. In a 2017 review titled “Atrial fibrillation: the current epidemic,” scientists from Canada, Great Britain, France, and Switzerland warned that the worldwide aging of the population by a large influx of “baby boomers” will likely trigger a global epidemic of atrial fibrillation “within the next 10 to 20 years.”8
The global strategy they proposed is modeled after that of the World Heart Federation, which recommends the control of lifestyle-related risk factors like excess weight, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, alcohol use, and sleep apnea.
Summed up this international team of experts: “Primary prevention of Afib, that is, reducing the risk of first onset by targeting modifiable risk factors, is the ultimate goal.”
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2. Pathak RK, Middeldorp ME, Lau DH, et al. Aggressive risk factor reduction study for atrial fibrillation and implications for the outcome of ablation: the ARREST-AF cohort study. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014; 64: 2222-2231.
3. Abed HS, Samuel CS, Lau DH, et al. Obesity results in progressive atrial structural and electrical remodeling: Implications for atrial fibrillation. Heart Rhythm 2013; 10:90-100.
4. Nalliah CJ, Sanders P, Kottkamp H, et al. The role of obesity in atrial fibrillation. European Heart J 2016; 37:1565-1572.
5. Deshmukh A, Patel NJ, Pant S, et al. In-hospital complications associated with catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation in the United States between 2000 and 2010: Analysis of 93 801 procedures. Circulation 2013; 128:2104-2112.
6. Pathak RK, Middeldorp ME, Lau DH, et al. Aggressive risk factor reduction study for atrial fibrillation and implications for the outcome of ablation: the ARREST-AF cohort study. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014; 64: 2222-2231.
7. Björkenheim A, Brandes A, Magnuson A, et al. Assessment of Atrial Fibrillation–Specific Symptoms Before and 2 Years After Atrial Fibrillation Ablation. JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology Jun 2017, 405; DOI:10.1016/j.jacep.2017.04.003.
8. Morillo CA, Banerjee A, Perel P, et al. Atrial fibrillation: the current epidemic. J Geriatr Cardiol 2017; 14(3): 195.
We are truly witnessing an epidemic in atrial fibrillation (“A-fib”). In fact, one in four adults in the U.S. now will experience at least one episode of A-fib in their lifetime
What is atrial fibrillation? A-fib is the most common heart rhythm abnormality. Typically, the heart beat very rapid and chaotic which can lead to chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness.
Why should we worry about atrial fibrillation? The biggest worry with A-fib is that it increases the risk of stroke five fold, doubles the risk of heart failure, doubles the risk of premature death, and doubles the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease! The key to preventing these long-term complications is to maintain normal rhythm.
What causes atrial fibrillation? Certainly genetics plays a role but the big three causes of A-fib are age, high blood pressure, and obesity. Most cases of A-fib, just like other forms of heart disease, are completely preventable. Indeed, studies have shown that 80% of heart disease is totally preventable. While we can’t do anything about our age or genetics, we can take control of our lifestyles and make sure our blood pressure is under control and that we maintain an ideal body weight. As two-thirds of all Americans are now overweight is it any wonder why atrial fibrillation has become so commonplace. It should be noted that sleep apnea is also a big cause of A-fib. However, for most patients, sleep apnea is just a consequence of obesity. If we can lose the weight the sleep apnea will likely go away as well.
What should we do if we have atrial fibrillation? The most critical thing to do is to make sure we are protected against having a stroke. Patients with A-fib and multiple risk factors for stroke will need to be treated with a potent blood thinner. For those without multiple additional risk factors for stroke an aspirin may be enough.
Medications, shocking the heart back into rhythm, or even a procedure to potentially cure atrial fibrillation, called a catheter ablation, may be necessary. Recently, we published a large study of thousands and thousands of patients at Intermountain Healthcare where we showed for the first time that an outpatient catheter ablation procedure for atrial fibrillation was not only able to eliminate A-fib in most patients but was also able to eliminate the increased risk of death, strokes, and dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease that comes from A-fib
Certainly, with A-fib, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure! I have listed below 3 tips to prevent or even reverse atrial fibrillation. In giving these tips, I am assuming that you are not smoking, as smoking is the number one cause of preventable heart problems.
- Get Moving!
According to the American Heart Association, only 1/3 of adults get “enough” physical activity which is defined as 150 minutes each week of at least moderate activity—that is just a mere 21 minutes each day We also have to move throughout the day.
A recently published study showed that sitting more than 3 hours a day shortens our life by 2 years. Being physically active will significantly lower our blood pressure and is a critical component of weight loss both of which are critical to preventing or reversing A-fib!
Thus, for my patients I now recommend taking 10,000 steps a day and exercising for 30 minutes each day in addition to the 10,000 steps. Even cardiologists need to get moving more as the average cardiologist only takes about 6,000 steps a day. Just taking 10,000 steps per day, as measured by a pedometer, has been shown to result in about a 5-pound weight loss, without dieting, and a 4-point reduction in your blood pressure.
At least a moderate level of exercise on most days has been shown to result it a 6-pound weight loss, once again without dieting, and a 6-point drop in blood pressure.
- Avoid Processed Foods!
You could not pick a better recipe for high blood pressure and obesity than processed foods. I would define processed foods as any food item that is already prepared whether it comes in a box, bakery container, soda can, soup can, jar, frozen dinner or pizza, salad dressing bottle, or 99% of what you can eat at restaurants or fast food places.
Processed foods are packed with salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. You have to read the labels. I recently looked at a label of “healthy” whole wheat bread. I could not believe my eyes; two slices of this “healthy” bread had 500 mg of sodium and 12 grams of sugar! It is a mystery why food manufactures feel that they need to add huge quantities of salt and 3 teaspoons of sugar to two slices of “healthy” whole wheat bread (1 teaspoon equals 4 g of sugar)!
Moreover, these foods have been shown to be highly addictive. The processed food industry knows this and these addictions lead to huge corporate profits. We need to get back to the basics and only purchase “real food” and then prepare our own food fresh!
- Focus on a Plant Based Diet and Fish!
If we can focus our diets on fresh whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, beans, and fish we will dramatically reduce the salt in our diets and our we will definitely lose weight. Indeed, studies have shown that if we can eat more of these items in our diet our weight will drop an average of 7 pounds without even dieting and our blood pressure will drop 11 points. In addition, this type of a diet has been shown to help prevent heart disease, cancer, dementia, and significantly prolong life!
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Managing atrial fibrillation: An update
New guidelines provide advice on the role of drugs, weight loss, and procedures to cope with this common heart rhythm disorder.
Published: June, 2019
The classic symptom of atrial fibrillation — a fluttering or thumping sensation in the chest — can leave you breathless, dizzy, and tired. Caused by electrical misfires in the heart’s upper chambers (atria), this condition affects an estimated one in 11 people ages 65 and older.
While the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (often called afib) can be unsettling, the real danger is a heightened risk of serious strokes (see “How afib can lead to a stroke”). As many as 30% of strokes from afib prove fatal, notes Dr. Christian Ruff, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
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