If you have atrial fibrillation (AFib), you may feel a fluttering in your chest or it may seem as if your heart is racing. Sometimes, these episodes stop on their own. In other cases, some kind of intervention can be necessary.
If you think you might have AFib, it’s important to see your doctor because AFib can lead to strokes and heart failure. There are medications and procedures designed to control symptoms and decrease the risk of stroke. But you may also find success with some noninvasive strategies at home. At a minimum, these strategies may help you relax and cope with the episode until it stops.
Engage in deep, mindful breathing
If you feel like your heart is beating a mile a minute, one of the simplest and best things you can do to slow your heart rate is to spend a few minutes breathing deeply and meaningfully. If possible, sit somewhere away from distractions and close your eyes, while slowly breathing in and out. Pay attention to the way your diaphragm expands and contracts as you inhale and exhale.
Get some exercise
As it turns out, exercise almost always does the body good. If you are a fairly athletic person, you may be able to halt an AFib episode by getting in a cardio session such as the elliptical or stationary bike. Before attempting this, check with your doctor to make sure you are fit enough for vigorous physical activity.
You’ve most likely had the experiences of trying to blow the air out of your ears when you are at a high altitude. This is technically called the Valsalva maneuver, and it can also help you during an AFib episode. If you are unfamiliar with this method, there are just a few simple steps: hold your nose, then close your mouth and try to pop your ears by blowing. This works by stimulating the vagus nerve and can help lower your heart rate if it is beating too fast.
Yoga is beneficial for AFib patients because the purposeful movements and breathing are good for the nervous system and have been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. You don’t have to be a yoga expert to reap the benefits. Try a few basic poses such as child’s pose, corpse pose or downward dog to help calm your heart. Just focus on breathing and making the movements slowly and deliberately.
Put some cold water on your face
You might think that the shock of cold water to your system would make your heartbeat more quickly, but actually the opposite is true. Much like the Valsalva maneuver, splashing your face with very cold water gets the vagus nerve working, and then the body reacts by lowering the heart rate.
Contact a health professional
If all else fails, contact your physician to explore other options for dealing with an AFib episode. If you experience any chest pain you should call 911 immediately, because it could be a sign of a heart attack.
The best way to stave off an AFib episode is to stay on top of your diagnosis by consulting with a cardiac electrophysiologist who can find the treatment method that’s right for you. Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. has helped patients across Sarasota and nearby communities including Tampa, Venice, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center receive the most innovative treatments available, so contact one of our care coordinators today to take control of your AFib.