Nutrients & Supplements for Afib Prevention: What Does & Doesn’t Work

One of the questions we are most often asked when a patient visits with a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is how it can be prevented. As with any disease process, the answer will vary based on the patient; however, we have plenty of data to help you understand what works and doesn’t as it relates to Afib.

Before we begin, it’s essential to understand precisely what Afib is, as it affects upwards of 5 million Americans and millions more worldwide. Atrial fibrillation is a tachycardia or fast heartbeat. It is also an irregular heartbeat that can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and long-term heart failure significantly. About 12% of all ischemic (blockage-related) strokes are estimated to have roots in Afib.1

Afib Prevention Techniques

The heart is a muscle and, like any other, thrives from good lifestyle choices to ensure proper function. For example, diet and exercise are crucial to continued heart health and to protect against Afib or other heart conditions. Often overlooked, patients with sleep apnea are at a significantly heightened risk of Afib and other cardiovascular diseases, and so are our patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Ultimately, a healthy body is a healthy heart, and the hard work you put into improving your health will pay off in many ways.

Do Food & Supplements Affect Afib?

We are commonly asked about several everyday foods and supplements that may or may not improve or worsen Afib. Below, we’ll give you an idea and discuss the most common questions we receive and whether they make any difference to your heart. Before we do, it is worth understanding that different patients react differently to these items, so this is just a general guide based on the research.

Does coffee or tea worsen Afib?

Studies have shown repeatedly that coffee and tea do not seem to be factors in the worsening of Afib. There may even be some data indicating a protective effect. We’re unsure if this relates to the caffeine itself, the mild hydration benefits the coffee and tea confer, or any compounds in coffee or tea that may be cardioprotective. That said, we aren’t going to force you to stop your morning, coffee, or tea routine just because you’re experiencing Afib. That said, you may be one of the few for whom caffeine worsens Afib, and if you correlate these two, certainly reduce your consumption or remove caffeine from your diet.

chocolate and coffee may help with afib

Does chocolate worsen Afib?

For the same reasons mentioned above, research does not show that chocolate would have an appreciable effect on Afib. Chocolate contains some very beneficial compounds and could be helpful to heart health. However, you’ve probably read about the differences between dark chocolate, milk, chocolate, and white chocolate, which are significant. White and milk chocolate are less healthy and have higher fat and sugar content. Remember that excess weight and obesity are important risk factors for Afib, so if you eat many of these high-calorie chocolates and your health is suffering, reevaluate your dietary habits. As with everything, moderation is the name of the game.

Does magnesium improve Afib symptoms?

There is a lot of discussion around the potential benefits of magnesium for Afib. Like most other nutrients our bodies use to stay balanced and healthy, magnesium affects several bodily functions, including having a laxative effect on the muscles. Theoretically, magnesium could help prevent an Afib episode. The best way to approach magnesium is not to assume that taking a magnesium supplement will solve your Afib issues. Instead, we suggest visiting your primary care provider, who can order a blood panel and check for any deficiencies. If you are experiencing a magnesium deficiency, you’ll be well served increasing your intake through food. If that’s not enough, you can work with your PCP for a supplementation regimen. The bottom line? Please work with your primary care physician to measure and ultimately treat any magnesium deficiencies and discuss the potentially protective effect of magnesium as it relates to Afib. Do not, however, start supplementing prophylactically without guidance from your physician.

Does vitamin D help with Afib?

Vitamin D is one of the most common deficiencies in the United States and worldwide, with millions of adults not getting enough of this essential nutrient. Most of the research on vitamin D revolves around bone health, as this vitamin is crucial for calcium absorption. However, we are learning more about vitamin D and its vital role in many bodily functions. While we don’t have a complete understanding of the role of vitamin D in heart health and Afib, we expect that there will be more interest in this topic. As such, patients should address any deficiencies in this vitamin with their primary care physician.

Bonus: Water and its relationship to Afib

One of the most significant risk factors for Afib and the worsening of this condition is dehydration. Unfortunately, very few of us get enough hydration throughout the day, and the result, amongst other things, can be thicker (more viscous) blood, which increases blood pressure and can trigger new or worsened Afib episodes. As a rule of thumb, you should drink at least 64 fluid ounces of water daily, and some advocate for half of your body weight in ounces. The effects of proper hydration on the blood materialize over weeks, so don’t expect your Afib episodes to improve immediately. Keep hydrating, and your body in mind will thank you for it.

Ultimately, no single factor will improve or worsen your Afib dramatically. Instead, Afib reflects your health, dietary and exercise habits, and body’s nutritional state. Preventing Afib requires a holistic approach to your health and taking the time and effort to ensure you live a balanced lifestyle.

drink plenty of water for heart health and to help with afib

Further treatment options for Afib

Of course, not all patients can improve or eliminate their Afib through diet and exercise alone. These patients may need medical or procedural interventions to reduce their risk of stroke and improve their potentially debilitating symptoms. We often take a two-pronged approach in this regard. To reduce stroke risk, we use anticoagulants, colloquially known as blood thinners, which decrease the ability of the platelets to stick together and form clots.

To manage Afib, we often employ a safe and effective procedure known as cardiac catheter ablation, which introduces heat or cold to destroy the heart tissue, causing an irregular heartbeat. A new process known as pulsed-field ablation is also gaining popularity as an alternative to heat and cold therapy.

Next steps

Visit a qualified electrophysiologist at the earliest signs of an irregular heartbeat. Afib is treatable, especially in its paroxysmal or occasional stage. This is when patients can get ahead of the condition with proper treatment from an expert EP like Dr. Tordini.

Meet Dr. Tordini

Andrea Tordini, MD is a Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiologist who specializes in the management of abnormal heart rhythms. Her special interests include atrial fibrillation ablation and management, evaluation and management of syncope and symptoms related to slow heart rhythms, pacemaker and cardiac defibrillator implantation, as well as the management of heart failure through cardiac resynchronization therapy.

Dr. Andrea Tordini provides her patients with personalized care to help relieve symptoms related to heart rhythm abnormalities and improve both the quality and longevity of life.  Schedule your appointment today.

Disclaimer: This post is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a licensed medical professional.

1Alshehri AM. Stroke in atrial fibrillation: Review of risk stratification and preventive therapy. J Family Community Med. 2019 May-Aug;26(2):92-97. doi: 10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_99_18. PMID: 31143079; PMCID: PMC6515763.



About this author.


Andrea Tordini, MD

Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology

  • Accepting new patients

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