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How to Stop an AFib Attack Fast

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Flipping, racing, skipping, and flopping. You are having a typical day when you suddenly notice a weird sensation in your chest. You might feel weak, tired, dizzy, or confused. You have been recently diagnosed with AFib and are having an attack. But what now? Is there something you can do on the spot to stop the weird and scary feeling of an AFib attack?

How can I tell if I’m in AFib?

Most people with AFib can tell that their heart is not beating at a normal rhythm. You can attempt to find out if you are in AFib by bringing attention to your heartbeat, which is felt in your pulse. Follow the steps below to get a better idea of what your heart is doing:

  • Feel for your radial pulse, which is best felt on the inside of your wrist below your thumb. Alternatively, you can find your carotid pulse on the side of your neck, just below your jawline. 
  • Position your index and middle finger gently on the pulse.
  • A normal heart rhythm will feel regular, as though beating to a drum. Typically, your heart will pump 60-100 times a minute.
  • A heart in AFib will have irregular beats, with some feeling stronger and others feeling weak. A heart in AFib will often beat over 140 times a minute. 

Note: Keep in mind, that there are other abnormal heart rhythms. Therefore, the only accurate diagnostic tool for AFib is an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which tracks the heart’s electrical signals. If you have not been properly diagnosed, visit your healthcare practitioner.

How do I stop an AFib episode at home?

AFib episodes typically come on suddenly and without warning. They can be highly anxiety-provoking, especially for those who have never experienced them. Managing an AFib attack will depend on your health history. If you have never been told that you have AFib and suspect you are having an episode, please seek immediate medical help. Many heart problems can mimic AFib symptoms, including a heart attack. Time is of the essence with heart attacks, so don’t try to manage them at home.

If you have a history of AFib, however, there are many things that you can try at home to stop an AFib episode fast. Here’s what you will want to do during an AFib attack: 

Relax

While it’s completely normal to feel anxious when your heart is not beating normally, anxiety and heart arrhythmias don’t go well together. When you feel fear, your body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to help ward off the impending stress. Unfortunately, these stress hormones cause blood pressure to rise and can worsen AFib symptoms. Studies have found that high cortisol levels in the blood can trigger an AFib episode. The following two relaxation techniques may help stop an AFib episode quickly. 

Deep Breathing

Breath is life, and yet we often remain unaware of this powerful healing tool. Breathing brings life-giving oxygen into the body and helps calm over-excited cells and organs. Studies have shown that deep breathing may help alleviate heart arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation. 

If you suddenly go into AFib, find a quiet place to sit or lie down and practice a few deep, mindful breaths. Place one hand on the chest and one hand on the abdomen. Breathe in slowly while watching your stomach stretch out. Imagine the incoming air wrapping a gentle hug around your heart, calming it down. Then, with the out-breath, imagine all of the stress and disease leaving your body. 

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient healing practice that has been around for centuries. Multiple studies have demonstrated the positive effects of yoga on AFib patients.  In one recent study, researchers found that regular yoga sessions cut atrial fibrillation episodes almost in half. 

If you are experiencing an AFib episode at home, a few gentle yoga postures may be enough to stop your symptoms. One of the simplest yoga poses to try during an AFib attack is Viparita Karani, also called Legs Up the Wall Pose:

  • Lie down on the floor with your feet facing a wall, using a pillow or a blanket for comfort
  • Place your feet on the wall, scooting your bottom as close to the wall as you can
  • Allow your legs to extend as they rest against the wall 
  • Relax and surrender, taking slow breaths as you remain with your legs elevated on the wall

Stimulate the vagus nerve

Vagus is Latin for wandering, and the name is apt, as this nerve is the longest in the human body. The vagus nerve originates in the brain and runs all the way to the torso, communicating messages throughout the body, including to and from the heart, stomach, and lungs. The vagus nerve counterbalances stress, hijacking the “fight or flight” response. Interestingly, it may also help stop an AFib episode dead in its tracks.

The exact mechanism that causes AFib is not known. However, some suggest vagus nerve involvement. Some patients are diagnosed with vagal AFib, a type of atrial fibrillation caused by poor vagal tone. Recent studies have shown promise in the treatment of AFib utilizing vagus nerve stimulation. 

Stimulating the vagus nerve may help stop an Afib episode. Try one of these vagal maneuvers:

  • Forceful and sustained coughing
  • Gagging
  • Placing a cold washcloth or splash cold water on the face 
  • Bearing down as though you are having a bowel movement
  • Loud humming or singing 
  • Holding your breath 

Exercise 

The last thing you might think of doing during an AFib episode is exercising, but it might just be the jolt your body needs to jumpstart the heart back to a normal rhythm. In a small study, researchers found that some individuals with AFib reverted to a normal rhythm with exercise alone. 

Doing ten jumping jacks or briskly walking up a flight of stairs may help stop an AFib episode at home. 

Next steps

The suggestions above might stop an acute AFib episode at home, but you’ll want to consider making long-term changes to your lifestyle as well. Only sustained changes will ensure that you keep atrial fibrillation from returning again and again. Altering your diet, reducing stress, eliminating toxins, practicing regular exercise, and prioritizing quality sleep will all help to keep AFib at bay.

Fill out an application to work with us and get help regaining your life and recovering from AFib for good — without dangerous pills and procedures.

Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well 


Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

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About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

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Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

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