After a car accident, it can be scary to get back behind the wheel. When you’re living with AFib, or atrial fibrillation, everyday life often takes some adjustment too.
“Because there’s always the possibility of recurrent AFib, many people feel a lack of control over their body and life. That’s a natural thing to go through,” says Jude Clancy, MD, a Hartford HealthCare cardiac electrophysiologist who practices in Middlesex and Old Lyme. “But you can manage it.”
Here are five tips for living life to the fullest with AFib.
1. Keep your health team on speed dial.
With the right care, you can prevent stroke — AFib’s biggest health risk — and have a great quality of life.
Some people are candidates for an ablation procedure to eliminate AFib altogether. Most people rely on lifelong medication and check-ins with their cardiologist. That means putting your health team in your phone’s Favorites.
“You can live a normal life once we get things under control. We just have to work together,” says Dr. Clancy.
2. Identify your AFib triggers, and work on avoiding them.
For many people, this list includes alcohol, caffeine and dehydration — and stress. While stress may seem inevitable, you can start by weaving healthy coping strategies into your routine, like exercise, meditation or calling up a friend or counselor.
“Each person copes with this differently,” says Dr. Clancy. “By becoming aware of your triggers, you can modify your lifestyle for the best chance of not going into AFib.”
3. Create a reminder system for your medication.
“Being compliant with your medications is extremely important,” says Dr. Clancy.
Get into a daily schedule at a time when you won’t forget, whether that’s morning before the day’s distractions begin or evening right before bed. Set an alarm, if you need to.
4. Join a support group for living with AFib.
Look online or contact your local health system for AFib support groups, whether virtual or in-person.
“Meeting with other people puts it in context that, while AFib is not life-threatening, almost everyone who has it struggles with the uncertainty of it,” says Dr. Clancy.
Encourage your loved ones to get support too: “They go through a lot when you’re not feeling well. Just recognizing that is important,” says Dr. Clancy.
5. Do what you can — and then live your life.
“We don’t have a crystal ball for what your course is. You have to take AFib day by day, and get comfortable living with a little bit of uncertainty,” says Dr. Clancy.
While AFib may not be pleasant, try to remember that it’s not life-threatening when you’re in the right care.
“Yes, you have to take medications. You have to address things like stroke risk and controlling your heart rate. But you can live with this. It just needs to be controlled and monitored,” says Dr. Clancy. “The trick is finding ways to cope with that feeling of uncertainty, rather than restricting your life.”