What is Atrial Fibrillation?
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Atrial fibrillation (AF) occurs when the heart’s pumping suddenly becomes faster or irregular. If ignored or poorly managed the consequences can be catastrophic for the heart and brain. Stroke is among the deadliest conditions linked to AF, but symptoms can hinder life quality even in the short run. To prevent the condition from developing, experts suggest two eating behaviours may best be avoided.
Writing for the American College of Cardiology, Edward Chu, MD, an electrophysiology attending physician in Miami, explained that certain eating patterns may be detrimental to the heart.
“In some instances, the dietary AF trigger may not be what is eaten but when it is eaten,” explained the expert.
Eating behaviours like skipping breakfast and regularly having late-night meals could disturb the organ by disrupting the cardiac rhythm.
In 2014, a study of more than 47,000 participants studied the effects of eating dinner within two hours of bedtime at least three times per week, as well as skipping breakfast three times per week.
“After adjusting for other lifestyle habits and cardiovascular comorbidities, those who were both late-night dinner eaters and breakfast skippers were at a nearly twofold risk of developing AF compared to those who did not exhibit such behaviours,” explained Chu.
He continued: “The authors theorised the AF trigger may be linked to an untimely disruption in circling blood and vagal tone related to gastrointestinal motility and metabolic function.”
Research published in the journal Future Cardiology in 2022, suggested there may be several other ways in which breakfast skipping impacts heart rhythm.
Some experts propose that low blood sugar, a common result of missing meals, can lead to heart palpitations.
Increases in blood pressure, another known complication of breakfast skipping, may also be at play.
Having chronically high blood pressure that is not well controlled substantially increases the risk of atrial fibrillation.
This is why certain food items like sodium are widely advised against for at-risk patients.
What are the symptoms of AF?
Common signs of atrial fibrillation increase a racing heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and skipped heartbeats.
The pounding sensation in the heart may last for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Because symptoms appear sporadically, or not at all, AF can be hard to diagnose during a visit to the GP.
As a result, a great number of patients remain unaware of their condition until a doctor discovers it by chance.
Doctor Yassic Javaid, the clinical lead for cardiovascular disease prevention at East Midlands Clinical Networks, believes awareness needs to be raised about the heart condition and its symptoms.
He said: “AF is a precursor for stroke – which, as we know, can have devastating effects on individuals and their families.
“I want to reassure people that you can live a normal and active life post-diagnosis of atrial fibrillation.
“If Atrial fibrillation is left undiagnosed, the risk of stroke and other complications can be very high so don’t delay getting a diagnosis if you have any suspicion.
“I ask that at the first sign, you might think that your heart has fluttered, or the rhythm has become irregular, or something feels different, you book an appointment with your GP.”
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