Methods to help stop an atrial fibrillation (AFib) episode include stress management techniques, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Treating the underlying cause, dietary changes, and exercising can also help prevent episodes.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of irregular heartbeat. A person may feel a fluttering in their chest and a racing heart during an AFib episode.

AFib can lead to complications, such as stroke and heart failure. Anyone who thinks that they might have AFib should contact a doctor right away.

Continue reading to learn more about ways to help prevent an AFib episode and when to contact a doctor.

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In some cases, a person may be able to manage AFib with home remedies and lifestyle changes.

A person who has symptoms of an AFib episode should consult a doctor, even if the symptoms resolve on their own.

A doctor may prescribe medications to keep a person’s persistent AFib under control. Persistent AFib can last at least 7 days, while some cases of AFib last much longer.

Paroxysmal AFib – when episodes occur occasionally – typically last for around 48 hours.

A person’s doctor can advise on ways to manage AFib at home and whether they recommend medical treatments.

Intense emotions, such as stress, can cause problems with the heart’s rhythm. According to the American College of Cardiology, managing stress may help a person manage AFib.

The regular practice of stress management techniques, such as focused deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and yoga could reduce the risk of an AFib episode.

A small 2017 study looked into the benefits of yoga for people with paroxysmal AFib fibrillation. It found that yoga with light movements and deep breathing helped improve quality of life, while also lowering both heart rate and blood pressure.

Read more on managing stress.

Exercise helps with cardiac health and stress management. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests people should aim for at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of activity per week.

Recent guidelines suggest that aerobic exercise may be particularly beneficial in reducing AFib.

If a person has paroxysmal AFib, it is typically best to exercise when a person is not experiencing AFib. It is generally OK to exercise while experiencing AFib, but a person should monitor their heart rate to avoid very fast heart rates during exercise.

A 2022 meta-analysis analyzed 13 studies with a combined 10,151,366 participants and 214,365 cases of AFib. It found that having 1 alcoholic drink per day increased the risk of AFib among participants by 6%.

According to a 2021 study, there is an association between individual AFib episodes and higher odds of recent alcohol intake.

This research suggests that avoiding or limiting alcohol may be one way to stop an AFib episode.

A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis found that tobacco smoking can increase a person’s risk of AFib.

The review also noted that this is typically dose-dependent. This means that the risk increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes.

The risk was higher among current smokers compared to former smokers.

If a person smokes, taking steps to reduce or stop smoking may help with managing AFib.

Learn about what happens after quitting smoking.

The American Heart Association (AHA), following a heart healthy dietmay be particularly beneficial for people with AFib. This includes consuming foods that are low in salt, cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats.

A heart healthy diet should also include:

  • a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • healthy sources of protein such as nuts, fish, and lean meats
  • liquid nontropical vegetable oils
  • a minimal amount of added sugars and processed foods
  • foods prepared with little or no salt

A 2022 article found that people with AFib less frequently followed the Mediterranean diet than those without AFib. This suggests that there could be a relationship between following the Mediterranean diet and the onset or severity of AFib. However, more research into this is necessary.

Learn more about diets for AFib.

Obesity can be a risk factor in the incidence and progression of AFib, according to a 2019 article.

Current guidelines recommend weight loss for people with AFib and overweight or obesity. This can result in a reduction in arrhythmia symptoms, how frequently they occur, and the related burden.

Maintaining a moderate weight can help prevent a person from developing AFib or help prevent it from worsening.

A person can contact their doctor to discuss whether they recommend weight loss. The doctor can also provide tips on how to safely lose weight.

Read tips for successful weight loss.

A 2021 study found that a person’s sleeping position can trigger paroxysmal AFib, typically associated with overweight and probable sleep apnea. The study included 94 participants with symptomatic paroxysmal AFib, with 22% of participants reporting a specific position as a trigger for AFib.

Sleeping on the left side was the most common trigger, followed by sleeping on their back. Sleeping on the right side and sleeping on the stomach also triggered AFib in some people, though these were less common.

A person can try adjusting their sleeping position to see if this helps reduce AFib.

Learn more about sleeping positions.

Substances such as cocaine can trigger AFib or make it worse. Limiting or avoiding recreational substance use may help a person manage or stop AFib.

Learn more about how cocaine affects the heart.

Some conditions can lead to AFib. Treating the underlying condition can help reduce or present AFib.

Heart conditions that can cause AFib include:

Other conditions that may lead to AFib include:

AFib can lead to serious complications, such as stroke and heart failure. Anyone who has symptoms of AFib should contact a doctor as early as possible.

The doctor may recommend medications or medical procedures to control symptoms and decrease the risk of complications.

A person should seek emergency medical treatment for:

  • fainting or near fainting
  • sudden chest pain or pressure that spreads to the:
    • arms
    • back
    • neck
    • jaw
  • difficulty speaking
  • weakness in the limbs
  • drooping of the face

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to serious complications. Medical professionals typically treat AFib with medications or medical procedures.

A person can also take steps to stop AFib. This can include managing stress, exercising, and adjusting sleeping positions. Making dietary changes, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking where applicable can also help.

A person should contact a doctor if they have concerns about AFib. They can advise on ways to manage symptoms, and they can also determine if an underlying condition is causing AFib.