atrial fibrillation

  1. Atrial fibrillation linked to alcohol

    This common habit can throw your heart off track

    Time to put away the Halloween decorations, toss the leftover trick-or-treating candy, and start planning for Thanksgiving, which is just three weeks from today.

    Yes, it's that time of year.

    And by "planning," I don't just mean figuring out which side dishes to serve with that bird.

    You've got to get yourself ready to handle all the temptation that's coming your way as the festive season kicks into gear.

    There are all the delicious foods, of course, as well as the drinking -- and, for many people, far TOO MUCH drinking, as they overdo it at parties, gatherings, family meals, and more.

    "Why not?" they figure, as they hoist the glass. "It's the holidays!"

    But new research shows exactly "why not," whether it's the holidays or any other time of year.

    It reveals how a booze habit can slowly throw your heart out of rhythm.

    Over time, that can set the stage for a dangerous and potentially deadly heartbeat condition called atrial fibrillation that can increase your risk of a stroke.

    It's the most common irregular heartbeat condition among older Americans. Roughly 1 in 10 seniors already have a-fib, and up to 25 percent of those who don't are at risk for developing it.

    You could be one of them -- but new research shows how you can bring that risk back down by quitting the booze.

    Simply put, the longer you drink, the higher your risk. On the flipside, the longer you go without, the more that risk drops.

    If you can avoid -- or mostly avoid -- booze for 10 years, your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat condition drops by a fifth.

    That might sound like a long time, but you know how fast the years can go by.

    And while the study looked at the long-term effects -- of periods up to 25 years -- it's pretty likely you'll get at least SOME benefit shortly after your "last call."

    On the other hand, a long-time drinking habit will do just the opposite, especially if you keep at it.

    Every decade spent on the sauce -- and I don't mean the cranberry kind -- will up your odds by 13 percent, with each additional drink per day boosting the risk by another 4 percent.

    That's not a risk you want to face.

    Along with giving you a good scare whenever your heart starts skipping around, a-fib often means a lifetime supply of blood thinners. They're supposed to help prevent a stroke, but they could also lead to serious bleeding problems.

    It's the worst of all worlds, but it's a world you can avoid.

    As the holidays roll around, do your heart a favor. Raise a glass of sparkling grape instead of champagne.

    And if you really want to have a toast to celebrate a holiday, limit it to just one and on actual holidays -- not any and every day in the "holiday season."

  2. Chocolate cuts atrial fibrillation risk

    Protect your heart... with chocolate!

    No one wants to be a nag.

    But when you're a doctor, sometimes that's part of the job. When patients have bad habits, you have to be the one to break it to them... especially if they're already at risk for conditions such as heart problems.

    On the flipside, sometimes you get to surprise people.

    And today, I'm here with one of those bright spots, because it turns out one "bad" habit isn't nearly as bad as you might think.

    Chocolate can actually be good for you!

    Don't stock up on candy bars yet, because -- of course -- there's a catch here.

    You need a little self-control. If you don't have the ability to limit the habit and not eat an entire jumbo-sized chocolate bar at one time, your best bet is to skip it completely.

    But if you have the willpower to eat just a square or two a day, a new study finds you might just avoid the nation's most common irregular heartbeat condition.

    The study of older folks tracked for nearly 20 years finds that eating between two and six ounces of chocolate per week will cut the risk of atrial fibrillation by 20 percent over nearly 14 years.

    Any more than that, and the benefit shrinks.

    Guys, you win this one: The biggest drop in risk of all was found in men who eat chocolate three times a week.

    In women, the benefit maxes out with a single serving a week, then drops.

    Sorry, ladies.

    On the other hand, feel free to go ahead and eat a little more. You might lose that a-fib benefit, but you could more than make up for it in other ways. Studies show a little chocolate each day can help protect the heart, brain, and more in both men and women alike.

    Of course, the junk food conglomerates that own all the big candy companies would LOVE for you to think this is a license to eat all the chocolate you want.

    But let's not get carried away.

    Be careful about how much you eat, and consider indulging in higher-quality dark chocolates instead of low-quality mass-produced candy bars.

    While you certainly can get at least some benefit from plain ol' Hershey's bars, the highest levels of heart-healthy flavanols are found in quality dark chocolates.

    If you look around, you'll even find some sweetened naturally with stevia so you won't get a load of sugar with your cocoa. You'll enjoy all of the benefits, but suffer none of the guilt.

  3. Atrial fibrillation linked to moderate alcohol

    Atrial fibrillation can be triggered by alcohol, with even a single drink per day boosting the risk of this dangerous condition.
  4. Atrial fibrillation after death of spouse

    Atrial fibrillation, a dangerous irregular heartbeat condition, can strike after the loss of a spouse, a new study finds.
  5. Atrial fibrillation cases could double

    The number of patients with atrial fibrillation could double in the coming years. Learn how to avoid the condition now.
  6. Moderate drinking could cause heartbeat problems

    Moderate drinking may not be healthy for everyone -- and for some people, it could raise the risk of a dangerous heart rhythm disorder.
  7. Fish oil can slash A-fib risk

    Fish oil isn't just the best natural way to fight the ravages of heart disease -- it's also the best way to avoid problems with your ticker in the first place.
  8. New blood thinner boosts heart risk

    Blood thinners are supposed to reduce the risk of the blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke -- but a new drug that's intended to slash the risk of stroke can actually increase the odds of a heart attack.
  9. Lifestyle can help duck heartbeat problems

    Not many things can put the scare into you quite like atrial fibrillation--I've heard people say it feels like the heart is trying to break right out of the chest.
  10. Connecting the brain to the heart

    We think of Alzheimer's disease as a brain disorder – but new research suggests the answer may be closer to the heart.

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