Read more about supplements for AFib. Have you or someone you love recently been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation? If so, you may have come across research or suggestions online about the importance of vitamins and dietary supplements for the treatment of AFib. But do natural supplements actually help with AFib symptoms?
As an electrophysiologist, my patients regularly ask me questions about supplements that can help with the natural management of atrial fibrillation. While supplements may be very helpful for some patients, I always remind my patients no natural supplement can be used as a replacement of prescription treatment medications designed to treat AFib. Always ask your doctor which supplements may be ideal in your situation.
With this in mind, here is everything I want you to know about health supplements, and AFib:
Magnesium Supplements for AFib
As the fourth most common mineral in the human body, magnesium plays an important role in the healthy and normal function of multiple different organs and systems. In relation to cardiac health, magnesium is essential for maintaining a regular heart rhythm. Competing with calcium (another important mineral for muscle contraction), magnesium also helps to keep your heartbeat strong and regular.
Other functions of magnesium in the body include:
Maintaining adequate brain function
Regulating muscle contractions
Improving sleep quality
Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels
Does Magnesium Deficiency Cause Atrial Fibrillation?
In America, magnesium deficiency is an incredibly common health issue. The standard American diet (typically higher in saturated fats and processed foods) is not high in naturally occurring magnesium, which in turn has led to widespread deficiencies across the country. The most common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include:
Muscle twitching and cramping
Weakening of the bones
Mood and mental state changes
Muscle weakness and fatigue
High blood pressure
Irregular heart rhythms
Like we already discussed, magnesium is an important mineral that is involved in the coordination of a natural heartbeat and is a key component of the energy molecules needed to keep your heart beating strong. So does having lower levels of magnesium put you at risk of developing atrial fibrillation?
In a study done in 2013, over 3,500 patients had their health monitored for over 20 years. Of this group, the individuals who presented with the lowest amounts of serum magnesium were roughly 50% more likely to develop AFib compared with those in the group who had adequate or high levels of magnesium. In another study in 2016, a database review showed that an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation was associated with mild and moderate magnesium deficiencies.
As more research is done to explore the connection between atrial fibrillation and magnesium, many people are turning to magnesium supplements hoping that they will help to manage or even reverse the disease. But does magnesium replacement help with atrial fibrillation?
Magnesium Supplements for AFib — Myth or Magic?
To date, there have been no long-term clinical trials that demonstrate a connection between the use of magnesium supplements and a reduction or reversal of atrial fibrillation. Research done on this topic has typically focused on the short-term effects of the supplements, meaning that we still do not know the long-term effects of magnesium supplementation and AFib.
A large majority of research studies about magnesium supplements and atrial fibrillation have been performed on patients who were undergoing heart surgery. Episodes of atrial fibrillation are a significant concern for patients who undergo open-heart surgery, as it can significantly prolong a patient’s hospitalization and recovery after surgery. There have been over ten studies published over the years about giving magnesium supplementation before heart surgery, and there is still no clear consensus on its effectiveness (some say the supplements help, some say they had no effect).
But, just because magnesium supplements have not yet been proven to have long-term health benefits for atrial fibrillation patients, it does not mean that they are not helpful in replacing magnesium levels in someone who is deficient. When paired with a nutrient-dense diet and healthy lifestyle choices, magnesium supplements can be helpful for many patients to reduce symptoms of AFib.
Other Supplements for AFib
In addition to magnesium, many other supplements are commonly marketed and suggested to patients with atrial fibrillation. My advice to all of my patients is to talk to their electrophysiologist and primary care provider before starting any supplement to ensure that it will be both safe and worthwhile for them to take.
Examples of supplements that are commonly recommended (but may not be effective) for the management of AFib include:
Vitamin B12 For AFib
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin B12 is essential for the health function of the human body. While ensuring that you have an adequate daily intake of vitamin B12 from your diet or through the use of supplements may be helpful for staying well, there is little research to suggest a connection between vitamin B12 and the prevention of atrial fibrillation.
Additionally, research has shown a connection between increased risk for experiencing cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes in those who take large megadoses of vitamin B supplements. Because of this, I strongly encourage my patients to talk with their primary care provider and double-check the concentration of their vitamin B supplements before taking them.
OMEGA-3 Fish Oil For AFib
Commonly used to increase a person’s daily intake of OMEGA-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements have had mixed reviews from researchers. Sometimes reported to offer health benefits to the cardiac system, other studies have found that fish oil can actually increase a person’s risk of developing AFib. In an assessment of five recent clinical trials, it was found that participants taking fish oil supplements were ⅓ more likely to develop symptoms of atrial fibrillation when compared to the placebo groups.
Additionally, in a recent study conducted in 2021, it was found that over a 5.3 year-long study period, participants taking regular fish oil supplements showed no reduction of AFib episodes when compared to other participants taking an olive oil-based placebo. While more research still needs to be done on this topic, patients and providers need to be aware of the current lack of evidence for the health benefits of fish oil supplements for AFib patients.
Vitamin D For AFib
As an important vitamin in human health, many researchers have sought out to determine if vitamin D supplements can assist in the prevention of atrial fibrillation. While vitamin D deficiencies may have an impact on our cardiac health, more research still needs to be done to determine a connection between having low vitamin D levels and developing AFib.
In a study conducted in 2021, researchers found that AFib patients taking regular vitamin D supplements had no noticeable decrease in AFib episodes or symptoms when compared to the soybean oil placebo group. This noted lack of improvement has led to many providers questioning the efficacy and benefits of adding vitamin D supplementation into atrial fibrillation patients’ treatment plans.
Vitamin C For AFib
A popular vitamin supplement around the world, vitamin C is also an antioxidant. Known for its support of the immune system, vitamin C has also been suggested to reduce oxidative stress and the likelihood of experiencing AFib after surgery. Currently, no definitive research has been able to prove this connection.
In a study conducted in 2012, evidence was found that vitamin C supplementation may increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease and early atherosclerosis. The study found that a diet high in naturally occurring vitamin C did not increase this risk, supplementary vitamin C has not been proven to have any cardiac health benefits.
Supplements for AFib are Not an Alternative to Prescription Medicine
While taking supplements can be an adequate way to encourage balanced and healthy lifestyle choices, it is imperative that all patients understand that no health supplement is an acceptable replacement for prescription medications. Additionally, some supplements may even interact with your prescription medications, which can be a dangerous situation for a newly diagnosed patient. I strongly recommend that anyone living with AFib consult with the electrophysiologist and primary care physician prior to starting any supplement to ensure that it is a good fit for their unique health needs.
How To Reverse Atrial Fibrillation Naturally
If you are interested in natural treatment options for atrial fibrillation and are highly motivated in improving your symptoms naturally, to reduce your need for medications or even procedures, then take a look at my one-of-a-kind, online educational program, Take Control Over AFib.
Lifestyle modifications and reducing inflammation are essential components of the long-term management of atrial fibrillation. Addressing the source cause of atrial fibrillation can lead to a significant benefit for most AFib patients. Targeted lifestyle modifications can reduce your symptoms, reduce your reliance on medications or procedures, and even improve the long-term success rate of a catheter ablation procedure for AFib. However, most patients are not given instructions or tips on how to accomplish these essential lifestyle modifications in an AFib targeted style.
This is exactly why I created the Take Control Over AFib Program, to give people a step-by-step plan to improve and potentially reverse atrial fibrillation naturally.
Thinking about lifestyle modifications is easy, but putting in place a system to keep you committed to achieve real results takes time and dedication, and with my step-by-step plan, we can achieve powerful and long-lasting results together.
Putting It Altogether
To date, no supplement has been proven to effectively cure or reverse atrial fibrillation.
While taking supplements can improve symptoms of AFib in some cases, they are not an acceptable treatment plan for managing this disease on their own. Please do not stop any of your prescription medications to replace with natural supplements without discussing with your doctor.
Just like every other disease, the severity of symptoms and risk of developing AFib is connected to the health of our entire body. In order to live a healthy and balanced life, there are many different natural options including weight management, diet changes, exercise, and taking supplements approved by your doctor.