How Does a Plant-Based Diet Affect Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)
Dr. Michael Greger, the prolific author of nutritionfacts.org, recently put together an excellent video on the potential benefits of a plant-based diet for preventing Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) and potentially managing the cardiovascular conditions and risk factors that hasten the onset or worsen existing Afib.
Studies show that fatty foods, typically red meats, animal products, and even dark meat fish like salmon, tuna, swordfish, and others, can cause or worsen Afib. So even though some animal products are touted as very healthy, they may not be conducive to eliminating arrhythmia.
If fatty animal-based foods tend to correlate with new or worsened Afib, it stands to reason that a plant-based diet may be appropriate for patients suffering from or at risk of the condition.
First, we know that a low-carb diet may worsen Afib. Secondly, eating a plant-based diet improves many of the risk factors associated with Afib, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, excess weight, and thyroid issues. The potential protective effects of a plant-based diet on the blood vessels of the body are as unique as it is exciting. For example, vegetables act as vasodilators, meaning the blood vessels expand and widen naturally to accommodate improved blood flow without the need for medication or other interventions.
Dr. Moretta’s Take
As electrophysiologists, we best serve our patients by taking a stepwise approach to their care. This is true of atrial fibrillation or any other cardiac arrhythmia. As such, bringing research like this to our patient’s attention is a big part of our jobs. Of course, we understand that adhering to a strict vegetarian diet, in this case, is more easily said than done. Ultimately, most of our patients will not be able to follow these dietary recommendations over the long term, and we may have to move on to medical or procedural interventions to manage their Afib and associated stroke and heart attack risk.
However, as we learn more about how profoundly our dietary and lifestyle choices can be linked to Afib, there’s no ignoring the data. We must change our lifestyles and address these modifiable risk factors before they get further out of our control.