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Atrial fibrillation and managing stress

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 19, 2023.

Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat. It's commonly called AFib.

The relationship between AFib and stress, anxiety and depression is complex. Some studies say there's a link between symptoms of these mental health conditions and the risk of AFib. Other studies say there's not.

For example, some research suggests that:

  • Feeling depressed or anxious can make AFib
  • Feeling angry or stressed about work may make AFib
  • Having anxiety increases the risk of AFib

But a large study of people with regular heart rhythms says that anxiety and severe depression do not increase the risk of AFib . More research is needed to understand any possible links.

Reducing stress and anxiety

High levels of stress and anxiety can increase the risk of many health problems. So managing stress is important for good overall health. If you have AFib, your health care provider will likely suggest healthy lifestyle choices to keep your heart healthy. It's possible that they may help you better manage AFib symptoms.

Ways to manage stress and anxiety are:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Do yoga.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Try breathing exercises to calm your heart rate.
  • Connect with others in a support group.
  • Spend time with supportive family and friends.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Have a positive attitude.

Talk with your health care provider if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety. The symptoms include feelings of constant sadness or worry, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in most activities. You may be referred to a provider trained in mental health conditions, called a psychologist or psychiatrist.

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