Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dealing with arrhythmia

I had a congenital arrhythmia called Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW) since I was a young child. The condition was diagnosed by my family doctor when I was 10 years old. WPW caused irregular and rapid heart beat in response to caffeine, alcohol and sometimes heavy exercise and dehydration. Sometimes the irregular heartbeat just happened spontaneously for no apparent reason.

My episodes of rapid heartbeat were relatively infrequent, maybe a couple of times per year. When they occurred, however, they were quite troubling and sometimes lasted for a few days. I would be be anxious and weak during these periods. At one point I became concerned enough to get a referral from my cardiologist to a cardiologist that specialized in the electrical problems of the heart.

This physician recommended that I have an ablation procedure done, which would destroy the congenital extra nerve path in my heart that was causing the arrhythmia. After much consideration, I decided not to have the procedure. I was concerned about the risks. Also, although the episodes of rapid heartbeat were troubling, they rarely impacted negatively on my lifestyle for more that one to a few days. So, I decided to live with the condition. I had been told by physicians that the condition was rarely life threatening.

I am now 66. For the past few years, physicians have not been able to detect the WPW on my electrocardiograms. Although the WPW disappeared, what seemed to take its place were PACs (premature atrial contractions), which became a constant companion. PACs feel like extra beats. My doctor told me that this irregular heartbeat condition is usually not serious. He had no special cure and told me I would have to live with this condition. He said this was a common arrhythmia and that there was no known cure. Many people he said have this condition without being aware of it.

For many years, I struggled with the question of whether my arrhythmia were really congenital, or whether they were caused by other factors in my environment. I had a high stress job. I am now retired. It never occurred to me that arrhythmia might be a function of lifestyle. It did occur to me that my high stress job might be a factor. I have been a lacto/ova vegetarian for over 20 years and started a low fat vegan diet 1 1/2 years ago.

Last December I had a bad accident while riding my bike in the mountains of north Georgia. I had major surgery to repair a shattered femur and a broken hip. The recovery period was long and very stressful. During this period my arrhythmia got worse. I was not sleeping well and I worried constantly about whether I would fully recover.

I decided to see a Cardiologist. On the first visit he did an EKG and said I had PACs and rapid heartbeat. He offered the option of a Beta Blocker, but did not push them to hard. During the second visit he said the the EKG showed Atrial Fibrillation and suggested more strongly that I begin the Beta Blockers. I started the medication and also took 1 baby aspirin per day to prevent possible blood clotting and a potential stroke that is sometimes associated with Atrial Fibrillation.

On my third visit to the Cardiologist, he took another EKG and could not detect the Atrial Fibrillation. He wanted me to stay on the medicine and come back in six weeks to start a Holter Monitor. The Monitor was to check my heart rhythms for an extended period of time.

I decided to not return to the Cardiologist, but rather see whether the heart rhythm issue resolved after my leg healed and my stress level was reduced. I also made further changes to my diet. Dr. Fuhrman, in response to my question on his website, said that upping my daily DHA intake and regularly consuming nuts and seeds might help the heartbeat problem.

I started Dr. Fuhrman's program, Eat to Live, a high nutrition, plant-based diet, including taking a daily dose of DHA Purity (a natural form of pure DHA from plant sources), 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds and 3-5 ounces of raw nuts and seeds. I also made a concerted effort to reduce stress and get at least 8 - 9 hours sleep every night. As my leg healed, it became easier for me to get a good night's sleep. After about 2-3 weeks on the ETL program, my arrhythmia completely disappeared and I stopped the Beta Blocker medication. I cannot sense any PACs or other irregularities. I am not sure which of these steps had the most impact on my now nearly 6 months of completely regular heartbeats but I have religiously kept to this regimen:

< Dr. Fuhrman's vegan Eat to Live program. (See the link on the right side of this page)

< Cut salt intake - I eat no processed foods (most come packaged with lots of salt) and add no salt to my food. I only get salt that occurs naturally in whole foods. Dr. F. says salt intake is related to arrhythmia. My average salt intake is < 1000 mg/day. I can't prove it, but it seems to me that significantly reducing salt has been a big factor in my relief from irregular heartbeat.

< Exercise regularly with a mix of cardio and strength workouts throughout the week. Usually work out 5 days per week.

< 4-5 ounces of raw nuts and seeds daily in addition to 1 ml of DHA Purity and 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds. This healthy fat helps fight arrythmia.

< 10 minutes of meditation per day to reduce stress levels. I do deep diaphragm breathing right before going to bed at night and it seems to help me fall asleep. I can't prove it but I think the ETL diet program aids deep sleep. At least I know I sleep much better since starting the program.

< I consume no caffeine or alcohol. Throughout my life I have found these to be very bad for arrhythmia.

< I never use cold medicines and always inquire about whether any Rx drug is related to irregular heartbeat. Apparently some (perhaps many) are.

The formula has worked beautifully for me over the past several months. Again, I am not sure whether the changes in my diet, the reduction in stress, my healed leg/hip, or other factors are primarily responsible for my lack of arrhythmia. I am also aware that they might return. But, I do not remember a period when I have had such a long stretch of normal heart rhythms. I am hopeful the irregular heartbeats will never return.


kneecap said...

This is a great story. I had irregular heartbeats that were also cured with ETL. They got better when I became a vegan and lost weight, but they were still there. Then I tried going low-fat vegan and they came back with a vengeance! I asked Dr. Fuhrman for advice and he said, eat nuts and seeds! They stopped right after I started doing that. I still had them occasionally but --- I didn't put 2 and 2 together until your post -- since I gave up salt, they have disappeared completely. I also gave up caffeine which helped too. So my experience is similar in that I've found it's the combination of nuts and seeds, the DHA supplement, high nutrition, losing weight, going off caffeine, and cutting out the salt, that got rid of them completely. I seem to have the same heart as my mother and grandmother, with a murmur, and they both had heart attacks. So I'm glad I found Dr. Fuhrman too!

Howard Veit said...


Very interesting. We have definitely gone down similar tracks. When I went vegan about a year and a half ago Congratulations on fixing your arrhythmias too. Great My theory is that the salt is a huge factor. So your knee, my hip and our arrhythmias have been cured in the past year. We have reason to celebrat. Happy New Year!

Arrhythmia cure said...

Hi Howard!

I think we have a similar case. We both had arrhythmia that we managed to cure by changing our diet.

The difference is I defeated my arrhythmia by eliminating foods and drinks containing known substances that cause arrhythmia, rather than going on a particular diet.

Nevertheless, it's good to be in perfect health again and live a healthier life at the same time.

I'm just wishing more people would try this approach before going on medication or surgeries.

Here is my story:
How I cured my arrhythmia

dgirl said...

Could you tell me exactly what u ate from day to day? Did u follow the 6 week plan in eat to live to the letter? As i suffer fromm arrhythmia's and have done for years, i did have them everyday at one stage then cut out caffeine and they stopped, but i do get them back every now and again and I hate them. I do have bad anxiety aswel that i know doesnt help. I just started etl about 3 days ago and want to do it as aggressively as i can so any advice would be great. thankyou

Mizpah Matus said...

I also have an arrhythmia that was diet responsive and I believe this is very common. It confounds me that patients are not offered advice on these lifestyle options that are usually much more effective than other treatments with only positive side effects!

Dr.Fuhrman's program is wonderful. I am following a raw vegan diet, which shares many of the positive qualities of the diet that he recommends.

I imagine like you it hasn't completely cured the condition, since it does return if I have caffeine but as long as I stay away from the triggers I am symptom free.

I definitely agree that omega 3 fats are key, but I have also had very profound benefits with coenzyme Q10 and acetyl-l-carnitine. The combination of a raw food diet with carefully selected supplements has had a very beneficial impact on my quality of life to the point where I haven't had anything more than a minor flutter for over a year now.

Howard Veit said...

dgirl, I have done a number of things that, taken together, have allowed me to manage arrhythmia quite well. I keep sodium intake to below 1000 mg per day on average and take 1 ml of DHA Purity each day in my morning smoothie. Dr. Fuhrman recommended that, given my irregular heart beat episodes, that I should take 1 ml rather than .5 ml that he normally recommends. I have not done the 6 week plan per se, but I do follow the ETL lifestyle and have for about 4 years. If you avoid the triggers like caffeine, chocolate and alcohol plus stick strickly with a high nutrition diet your arrhythmia should be controlled unless you have a permanent condition such as Atrial Fibrillation. Afib may be irreversible with diet. I also think that controlling stress and anxiety is critical. Even now, when I am under stress my irregular heartbeats can return. I use exercise as a stress reducer. I do resistance training (weights) and cycling to keep me fit and fight stress. If you are not exercising regularly (most every day) I advise you to do so. The bottom line is that excellent nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are key factors in reducing/eliminating some arrhythmia. I have totally eliminated all triggers also. said...

Hello Howard,

Healthline just designed a virtual guide of how atrial fibrillation affects the body. You can see the infographic here:

This is valuable med-reviewed information that can help a person understand the effects of afib of their body. I thought this would be of interest to your audience, and I’m writing to see if you would include this as a resource on your page:

If you do not believe this would be a good fit for a resource on your site, even sharing this on your social communities would be a great alternative to help get the word out.

Thanks so much for taking the time to review. Please let me know your thoughts and if I can answer any questions for you.

All the best,
Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing Manager
p: 415-281-3124 f: 415-281-3199

Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

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Howard Veit said...


I have Healthline and the arrhythmia article to my resource list. Thanks for your comments.


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S Adams said...

Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing