Most of us know that smoking increases your risk of a wide array of health problems like lung disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Now, researchers suggest that if you do smoke, cutting back and quitting can cut your risk of developing atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a common heart rhythm problem.
The researchers found that current smokers were more likely than nonsmokers to develop AFib and that the more a person smokes, the greater the risk. Quitting appears to significantly lower the risk, according to the study published last month in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“Smoking is a well-known risk-factor for heart disease,” said Eric Krivitsky, MD, a cardiologist with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group who treats heart rhythm problems. “This study provides evidence that it’s important to quit as soon as possible, as you can significantly reduce your risk of developing AFib.”
AFib is a heart rhythm disorder or an irregular heartbeat, causing your heart to flutter or beat too fast. More than 2.7 million Americans have AFib and its becoming more common.
“It’s important to see a doctor quickly if you think you might have an irregular heartbeat condition like AFib because people with this disorder are five times more likely to have a stroke,” said Dr. Krivitsky.
Know the Signs of AFib
If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, call 911.
- Chest discomfort
- Inability to exercise
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
Cut Your Risk of AFib
The best way to reduce your risk of developing AFib is to follow these tips for a heart-healthy lifestyle.
- Get regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes three to five times a week)
- Eat a heart-healthy diet low in salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol
- Manage your blood pressure
- Do not smoke
- Control your cholesterol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get an annual physical
Eric Krivitsky, MD