What Should I Do During An AFib Attack?

In this video I discuss tips on when a patient should go to the Emergency Room during an AFib attack.

Imagine being at the start of an AFib attack. Sure… you don’t have to imagine it. You are living with AFIb. Commonly, you have palpitations, rapid or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and simultaneously may also feel extreme anxiety. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what to do during an AFib attack?  Well, that’s what my patients have said to me.  So, I’ve decided to think about some simple things you can do to help work through it.

Some ideas will work for you, others will not.  Please ask your doctor to review these ideas. If he or she agrees they won’t harm you, and could help, consider doing them to reduce the intensity of the attack. These simple tips can help you cope with an AFib attack..

What To Do During An AFib Attack To Work With It

  1. Relaxation Techniques. Yes, I know this may be a challenge to do when you are in the midst of an AFib attack. However, basic science confirms that if you purposely do something to relax your mind and your breathing, you can cope better with anxiety-triggering stress.

    Having AFib may feel like something uncontrollable is going on inside your chest. It has been said that the thing you focus on the most is what feels the most present. Psychologists and psychiatrists teach their patients the importance of effective stress management. Natural stress management techniques can help you thinking positively. When you think and act like you can do something about an AFib attack, your brain and mind will calm down. So, developing the habit of inhaling calmly and thinking of something relaxing can help you cope better with an AFib attack. There has also been literature about the benefits of meditation during an AFib attack.

  2. As appropriate, check to see if you are dehydrated. People commonly drink insufficient amounts of water. Are you one of them? Water, a component within your body, is used to conduct your heart’s natural electricity. Since AFib concerns an internal, irregular, largely unpredictable electrical circuitry issue, being dehydrated may make an AFib attack more intense. For this reason, I recommend that my patients stay hydrated drinking plenty of water. Drinking water does NOT mean drinking liquids like soda pop, alcoholic drinks, or artificially flavored drinks. This means drinking clean, clear, pure WATER. There are some patients that have noticed drinking very cold water can help stop an AFib attack as well.

  3. Avoid ingesting substances that trigger atrial fibrillation. We all know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. However, the challenge can be disciplining yourself to DO what you know is right for you. Here’s an exercise you can do. Keep a journal/diary of things that are known to trigger an AFib attack for you. These may go beyond caffeine, over-the-counter meds, an interaction with another person who feels upsetting to you. Whatever you discover, make a decision about this knowledge. Use it to your benefit.

  4. Taking additional medications. Check with your doctor if it is a safe strategy for you to take additional medications as needed for an AFib attack. For several of my patients I may counsel them that it is ok to take additional doses of a beta blocker or anti-arrhythmic medication to help terminate an AFib attack. For some patients, as needed medications for anxiety and stress may also help with an AFib attack.

  5. Know when to go to the Emergency Room. When symptoms are severe, sometimes the most rapid treatment will be intravenous medications which will require a visit to an emergency room or urgent care center. See my video on this page for further tips on when to seek urgent medical attention.