Do you know how to handle fatigue with AFib?
Between the sleepiness, fatigue, low energy and general malaise atrial fibrillation can be a draining disorder. While some people won’t detect too much of a difference in their energy levels, many of those who live with AFib complain of frequent fatigue that can interrupt their daily routine.
What’s to blame for your low energy? The frequency and severity of your AFib episodes, your daily activity and habits, and your treatments can all factor into how tired you feel. Understanding what’s at the heart of your AFib fatigue is the first step. Once you know, you can apply some smart strategies to boost your energy.
Where does your fatigue come from?
When your heart beats faster than normal for a long stretch of time, the muscle gets tired. That’s the short answer. However, understanding what exactly is happening with AFib can help you pinpoint the problem (and hopefully help you to treat it).
A rapid heart rate is a primary issue: healthy atria contract between 60 and 80 times a minute, but when your atria are in fibrillation, the contractions are incomplete. Instead, these upper chambers quiver – up to 400 times each minute.
Although your AV node tries to calm this overactivity, it can’t halt every extra electrical impulse. These erratic electrical signals funnel into the ventricles, causing the heart to beat much faster than normal, and that can feel like an exhausting workout.
A rapid heartbeat is only one part of the equation; inefficient blood flow can be another source of fatigue. When the atrial chambers flutter instead of contract, they can’t pump blood as well, which means the oxygen-rich blood your tissues rely on won’t always reach them. When your tissues and organs run out of fuel, you can feel weak and tired.
Is another condition at play?
It’s not unusual for AFib to come with (or from) other chronic conditions, especially if that other issue has been mismanaged or gone untreated. Cardiovascular disease is a significant risk factor for AFib, and it can bring side effects like shortness of breath, and, in turn, decreased energy. Congenital heart defects can also be to blame – for some people, one of the first warning signs of a defect is shortness of breath and fatigue.
Although older age, high blood pressure, and heart disease top the list of fatigue risk factors, other health issues can also drain your energy and encourage AFib symptoms. Sleep apnea, asthma, and COPD can all interfere with how oxygen moves to your tissues, which means they can cause even more fatigue than you’d have with AFib alone.
Change your habits, change your energy levels
Managing your AFib symptoms is a key to improving processes in your body and boosting your energy levels. You can modify your routine to respect your limitations, helping you to conserve more energy to use throughout the day. And by working to keep your symptoms to a minimum, you can avoid the consequences of a prolonged elevated heart rate.
Move in intervals. When you parcel your activity into shorter stretches, your energy stores can last longer. Try to space out your errands through the course of your day. When you exercise, alternate a few minutes of effort with a few minutes of rest, to better balance your cardio benefits with AFib symptom management.
You might find your energy levels are higher at a certain time of day. Pay attention to those patterns – it can help you plan your activities strategically.
Mind your minerals. Many people – and AFib patients in particular – tend to have low levels of magnesium, which can manifest in a number of ways, like muscle twitches, cramps, and fatigue. Since magnesium is crucial for healthy cells, you’ll want to make sure your magnesium level is topped up.
Look out for the warning signs of a magnesium deficiency: when your AFib symptoms come alongside discomforts like muscle spasms, insomnia, and irritability, you might need more magnesium. While a balanced diet can help bring up the level of this electrolyte, it probably won’t be enough. Supplements, in the form of pills or topical spray, can be an easier and more effective way to get magnesium to your tissues and relieve some of the extreme fatigue.
Check in with your sleep
A healthy lifestyle is vital, but focused AFib management plays an important role in your quality of life, too. Sleep is incredibly important for your body to reset and recover. Your sleep needs can change as your age or as your AFib progresses, so it’s a good idea to look closely at your routine to make sure you’ve done what you can to keep symptoms under control.
Morning stress could set you on an uncomfortable path for the rest of the day, but a good night’s sleep can help you wake with a clear head and a proactive mood. Are you getting enough sleep? Is it quality sleep? Instead of relying on coffee to kickstart your day (caffeine is a notorious AFib trigger), pay more attention to getting a solid eight hours of rejuvenating sleep – which probably means cutting out alcohol in the evening.
Modify your treatment plan
Medication can help you manage your AFib, but your dosage needs can change over time. Drugs like beta blockers can cause significant fatigue. Remember that there are different medications to treat AFib and heart disease, and surgical options to consider when medication aren’t cutting it. Speak to your doctor about catheter ablation or the surgical maze procedure – these might be logical next steps to get your heart rhythm under control for the long term, which will reduce your symptoms or even eliminate them altogether.