Doctors & patients are saying about 'A-Fib.com'...


"A-Fib.com is a great web site for patients, that is unequaled by anything else out there."

Dr. Douglas L. Packer, MD, FHRS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

"Jill and I put you and your work in our prayers every night. What you do to help people through this [A-Fib] process is really incredible."

Jill and Steve Douglas, East Troy, WI 

“I really appreciate all the information on your website as it allows me to be a better informed patient and to know what questions to ask my EP. 

Faye Spencer, Boise, ID, April 2017

“I think your site has helped a lot of patients.”

Dr. Hugh G. Calkins, MD  Johns Hopkins,
Baltimore, MD


Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...


"If I had [your book] 10 years ago, it would have saved me 8 years of hell.”

Roy Salmon, Patient, A-Fib Free,
Adelaide, Australia

"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su,
Cavanaugh Heart Center, 
Phoenix, AZ

"...masterful. You managed to combine an encyclopedic compilation of information with the simplicity of presentation that enhances the delivery of the information to the reader. This is not an easy thing to do, but you have been very, very successful at it."

Ira David Levin, heart patient, 
Rome, Italy

"Within the pages of Beat Your A-Fib, Dr. Steve Ryan, PhD, provides a comprehensive guide for persons seeking to find a cure for their Atrial Fibrillation."

Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA


A-Fib Patient Stories

Newest Member of Our A-Fib Support Volunteers Was Diagnosed at Age 18

I’m pleased to welcome Warren Darakanada from Los Angeles, CA to our group of A-Fib Support Volunteers. At age 23, he’s one of our youngest volunteers. He hopes to be a resource for those patients closer to his age.

His cardiac health story started about 10 years ago. At age 13, a severe acne breakout landed him in the doctor’s office. While checking his vitals, a problem was found with his blood pressure (and an elevated cholesterol level). Warren shares:

Warren D.

“While the diastolic pressure was normal, the systolic was above 140 mmHg. Without a doubt, I needed to see a cardiologist. I went through a series of tests to rule out causes of secondary hypertension. Luckily or unluckily, nothing was found.
Over the next years, I had several EKGs, but it was not until a routine cardiologist visit when I was 18 that I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. I think I had A-Fib for some time prior to my diagnosis, but had no idea my heart beat was irregular. I was in shock! I didn’t know what to think or feel.
I was put on a beta-blocker and warfarin. Given my young age and the perpetual nature of atrial fibrillation, I knew I was headed toward a cardiac ablation.
Suffers Most from Mental and Psychological Effects: While I had few A-Fib symptoms, what I found hard to endure and most debilitating was the mental and psychological effects. I would ask myself:
‘Why is this happening to me and not anybody else?
Why can’t I go back to college and enjoy my freshman year with my friends?
Given all these circumstances, is my life worth living?’
These questions may sound stupid to a mature person in good mental condition. But that wasn’t me. Remember, I was only 18 years old and just starting college… Continue reading Warren’s story…
One-to-One, our A-Fib Support Volunteers are just an email away at A-Fib.com

Our A-Fib Support Volunteers Offer One-to-One Support

When you need someone who will listen and who understands A-Fib, our A-Fib Support Volunteers are just an email away. These volunteers have gone through a lot while seeking their A-Fib cure. They have been helped along the way and want to return the favor. Learn more.

New A-Fib Story: Small Intestine Bleeding Linked to Coumadin; After 8 Years, CryoBalloon Ablation at Age 76

Larry Stichweh from Lacey, WA, begins his A-Fib story at age 66 in 2008 with a 20 year history of high blood pressure.

“To investigate its possible causes, my doctor sent me to a urologist to look for a kidney stenosis problem. The ultrasound proved negative, but the urologist listened to my heart and noted an irregular beat. He ordered an ECG and after one look at it, he took me to his office, and said he was admitting me to the hospital right then and there. He said I had no “P” wave and was in A-FIB. Thus, began my A-FIB history.

I spent 6 days in the hospital while I was introduced to the arrhythmic drug, Sotalol. After I left the hospital, I had to report to a “Coumadin lab” every few days while they struggled to adjusted the Coumadin dosage to the target INR level.

High Blood Pressure and Intestinal Bleeding

A month later, I was back in the hospital when my blood pressure increased rapidly from my normal systolic of about 130mm to 200mm. Intestinal bleeding was found too, and eventually linked with the Coumadin. When it was discontinued, the intestinal bleeding stopped. Three units of blood brought my hemoglobin up to 11.5. I was put on aspirin instead (it was 2008, before the new NOACs).   

Next 8 Years: Paroxysmal A-Fib Gets Worse

My A-FIB was clearly paroxysmal with episodes lasting between 1 and 2 days with 8 episodes over the next 8 years. When the last A-FIB attack lasted three weeks, it was time to consider an ablation. I was 74. 

By 2016, cryogenic balloon ablations had become readily available in major medical centers in the US”…continue reading Larry’s A-Fib story.

HAVE A STORY TO SHARE?

How about you!? Do you have a personal A-Fib experience to share with other patients? It can be your own story or perhaps the story of your spouse, parent or sibling. Just tell the story from your point-of-view. If you are interesting in offering your insights and ‘lessons learned’, read how to write and submit your A-Fib story!

At Age 13, Treatment for Acne Reveals Need for a Cardiologist! A-Fib Hits Early

Warren D.

By Warren Darakanada, Los Angeles, CA, August 2017

“As I write about my A-Fib, I am 23 and just starting my adult life as a financial and economic consultant. But my cardiac story actually starts about ten years ago.

At age 13, I got a severe acne breakout that brought me to the doctor’s office. While waiting to see the doctor, a nurse decided to take my vitals and blood pressure. While the diastolic pressure was normal, the systolic was above 140 mmHg. Without a doubt, I needed to see a cardiologist.

Further investigation revealed that I also had an elevated cholesterol level. Luckily, my blood glucose level was normal. I went through a series of tests to rule out causes of secondary hypertension. Luckily or unluckily, nothing was found.

Since I was a low-risk patient who could benefit from lifestyle modification, and given my age, I was not prescribed any medication or procedure.

At Age 18, A Shock to be Diagnosed with A-Fib!

Over the next years, I had several EKGs, but it was not until a routine cardiologist visit when I was 18 that I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. I think I had A-Fib for some time prior to my diagnosis, but had no idea my heart beat was irregular.

I was 18, and in shock! I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to think or feel.

I was in shock! I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to think or feel. The attending cardiologist called in medical residents and fellows to show them that “this is what atrial fibrillation sounds like” through the stethoscope.

Referred to an electrophysiologist, I was put on a beta-blocker and warfarin. Given my young age and the perpetual nature of atrial fibrillation, I knew I was headed toward a cardiac ablation.

[For someone as young as Warren, it’s unthinkable to leave him taking dangerous A-Fib drugs for a lifetime (60 or 70 years). In addition, a catheter ablation was his most reasonable option with a high success rate in young people like Warren.]

Suffers Most from Mental and Psychological Effects

While I had few A-Fib symptoms, what I found hard to endure and most debilitating was the mental and psychological effects. I would ask myself:

‘Why is this happening to me and not anybody else?
Why can’t I go back to college and enjoy my freshman year with my friends?
Given all these circumstances, is my life worth living?’

These questions may sound stupid to a mature person in good mental condition. But that wasn’t me. Remember, I was only 18 years old and just starting college, and college students are prone to depression for various reasons. (See Seven Ways to Cope with the Fear and Anxiety of A-Fib)

My solution: Instead of staying home and pondering about these life problems, I decided to keep myself busy with activities, online classes, and occasional meet-ups with friends.

In hindsight, that helped tremendously.

My Catheter Ablation

It was roughly 3 months between my diagnosis and my ablation in March 2013. So, I only “knowingly” lived with A-Fib for a few months before my ablation.

The day of my RF catheter ablation came just as any other day. I had been admitted the night before. Except for not eating after 9 pm, I did nothing to prepare myself for it. I think the procedure lasted about 1 1/2 hours. I stayed in the hospital overnight.

As a child, I had had many surgeries, so hospitalization was not a big deal. (To keep this short, I’ll skip my childhood medical history.)

Post Ablation

After the procedure, I was almost always in sinus rhythm. But my atrial fibrillation would come back intermittently. Most episodes were really short with the frequency decreasing over time. [This is common during the three-month ‘blanking period’ following an ablation.]

However, because my heart rate was not well controlled and because of the risks of recurrences, I was put on diltiazem, a calcium channel blocker.

Because of my hypertension and high cholesterol (added risk factors of atrial fibrillation), I am also on Cozaar and a statin.

Now A-Fib-Free 

Since I started diltiazem, I’ve not had an episode…except one time after being under general anesthesia. The cardiologist believes that was a side effect of propofol [used to help you relax before and during general anesthesia for surgery].

It would be great if I could live without my various medications, but taking them, honestly, is not a big deal.

Lessons Learned

Emotionally Stronger and Healthier: I feel the entire A-Fib/ablation process has made me an emotionally stronger person. I also started to work out and take care of my own health more. (But that’s also a function of becoming more mature with age rather than the ablation alone.)

In the process, I have learned to enjoy and appreciate life in the way most people my age could never do.

I have learned to enjoy and appreciate life in ways others my age could never do.

Atrial Fibrillation―It Comes in a Package: By that I mean, cardiovascular disorders often come “packaged” together, often congenitally and genetically.

I’m trying to suggest that people with A-Fib/arrhythmia often have other cardiovascular risk factors. For instance, I have hypertension and high cholesterol and a family history thereof.

Moreover, cardiovascular diseases are also risk factors of diseases for other organs, such as the kidneys and liver.

My advice for younger patients diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation:

Exercise: I would suggest that young adults work out more, at least 3 times a week for one hour each time.

Seek Help for Mental Health: For those suffering from A-Fib, make sure that you have a good attitude. Seek counseling if you have mental conditions from A-Fib.

Evaluate & Reduce Other Risk Factors:  Young A-Fib patients should also see general cardiologists to evaluate A-Fib related risk factors.

When young people get A-Fib, they could be living with it for possibly more than 50 years. Take actions to reduce your risk factors and take care of your body.

Positive Attitude Trumps All: I’m dealing with my ‘package’ of conditions. While getting rid of my ‘package’ once and for all might not be an option for me, I can choose to live with a positive attitude.

I welcome your emails.”

Warren Darakananda
warrenddara(at)gmail.com

Editor’s Comments:
We are most grateful to Warren for his frank discussion of how A-Fib affected him psychologically and emotionally. He was only 18 years old when diagnosed with A-Fib and just starting college. He’s learned the hard way how to develop a “positive attitude.”
Psychological Distress:  For Warren, the psychological effects were hard to endure, much more so than his physical symptoms.
Recent research indicates that “psychological distress” worsens A-Fib symptoms’ severity. For many patients the anxiety, fear, worry and depression can become debilitating.
To learn how to deal with the psychological aspect, see my article, Seven Ways to Cope with the Fear and Anxiety of A-Fib.
A-Fib Support Volunteers: I’m pleased to welcome Warren to our group of A-Fib Support Volunteers. He hopes to be a resource for those patients closer to his age. (He’s one of our youngest volunteers.)
We are blessed to have many generous people who have volunteered to help others get through their A-Fib ordeal. Most A-Fib Support Volunteers are not medical personnel. They come from widely different backgrounds. But you can be sure they care about you and understand what you are going through. Visit our A-Fib Support Volunteers page to learn more.

Personal Story: Urology Test Led to A-Fib Diagnosed at Age 66

Larry Stichweh tells us about his 8 year journey with Atrial Fibrillaiton. It all started with his high blood pressure.

“It was taking an increasing level of meds to keep my blood pressure in check. At a routine office visit, I suggested to my doctor that we should look at possible causes of my high blood pressure.

My doctor agreed, and as a starting point, sent me to an urologist to look for a kidney stenosis problem. The ultrasound proved negative, but the urologist listened to my heart and noted an irregular beat. I had no known prior history of heart problems.

The urologist sent me down the hall for an ECG with instructions to have the technician give the chart to me to take back to him. He took one look at it, took me to his office, and said he was admitting me to the hospital right then and there. He put me in a wheel chair (even though I felt no symptoms) and off I went.

He said I had no “P” wave and was in A-FIB. Thus, began my A-FIB history.” Continue reading Larry’s story.

Major Coumadin Problems, on Sotalol For 8 Years, Then Cryoballoon Ablation at Age 74

By Larry Stichweh, Lacey, WA, August 2017

Larry Stichweh, Lacey, WA

Many of the shared personal A-FIB experiences on A-Fib.com describe a long and complicated path to a cure. But mine, not so much.

But it did involve these issues: a bad experience with Coumadin, effective long-term use of Sotalol (Sotalol becoming an important component of my blood pressure control), significant congestion side effect of Eliquis, and a single successful cryogenic PVI ablation with no complications.

I hope my story is more typical of those who experience A-FIB (except for the Coumadin issue).

High Blood Pressure for 20 Years

My story begins at age 66 in 2008. I am a retired chemical engineer and was living in Pensacola FL. I had been successfully treated for high blood pressure for at least 20 years, working progressively through many hypertensive drugs and drug combinations. Up to this point my blood pressure was controlled near 120/80.

Urology Test Led to A-Fib Diagnosed at Age 66

It was taking an increasing level of meds to keep my blood pressure in check. At a routine office visit, I suggested to my doctor that we should look at possible causes of my high blood pressure.

He took one look at my ECG, took me to his office, and said he was admitting me to the hospital right then and there.

My doctor agreed, and as a starting point, sent me to an urologist to look for a kidney stenosis problem. The ultrasound proved negative, but the urologist listened to my heart and noted an irregular beat. I had no known prior history of heart problems.

The urologist sent me down the hall for an ECG with instructions to have the technician give the chart to me to take back to him. He took one look at it, took me to his office, and said he was admitting me to the hospital right then and there. He put me in a wheel chair (even though I felt no symptoms) and off I went.

He said I had no “P” wave and was in A-FIB. Thus, began my A-FIB history.

Hospitalized 6 Days: Started Arrhythmic Drug

I do not know how long I was in A-FIB at that point as I did not recognize any symptoms except for a bit of fatigue. My best guess was less than two weeks prior to discovery. I spent 6 days in the hospital while I was introduced to the arrhythmic drug, Sotalol, which requires a few days of monitoring at the start to watch for undesirable reactions.

I do not know how long I was in A-FIB at that point as I did not recognize any symptoms except for a bit of fatigue.

I also began anticoagulation therapy which starts with injected heparin and then migrates to Coumadin.

After 6 days in the hospital I was feeling well (though bored) but still in A-FIB. I requested a electroconversion. During the prep and anesthesia, I self-converted [back into sinus rhythm] and was sent home to begin adjusting the Coumadin level.

Weeks Spent Adjusting Coumadin Dosage

Now the “fun” begins.  I left the hospital taking 160mg Sotalol/day and 5.0 mg Coumadin with an INR of about 2.5 on April 29, 2008.  I had to report to a “Coumadin lab” every few days while they adjusted the Coumadin dosage to the target INR level.

Here is the history of the adjustments, as prescribed by the clinic technician, working toward a target INR of 2.5:

Date    INR    Adjusted Coumadin mg/day

4/29     ~2.5     5.0 as discharged from hospital
5/2       4.1       4.0
5/8       4.3       4.4 I do not know why this increase was prescribed
5/16     3.8       4.0
5/30     3.6       3.0

[SSR: These INR levels are too high for someone on Coumadin.] I spent the better part of a month above the target of 3.0.

On June 3, 2016 I was sitting at my computer in the morning when I noticed my blood pressure increasing rather rapidly from my normal systolic of about 130mm to 200mm.

I had my wife drive me to the emergency room where I was monitored due to the high blood pressure, and they noted I had been taking Coumadin.

Back to Hospital with High Blood Pressure Crisis

By midafternoon I was sitting in the ER and noted my vision was fading out to all white. The dropping blood pressure brought the staff in to put my head down and feet up which brought back my sight and consciousness.  At this point the ER doctor said he had no idea what my problem was, and I was admitted to a hospital room. I seemed to be somewhat stabilized at this point but very weak.

That night a bowel movement was very large and resembled fresh asphalt which I informed the attendant of the next morning [sign of intestinal bleeding]. This information apparently did not make it into my record, a major oversight. No one ever asked about this possibility while I was there, and I was in no shape to think clearly.

The next three days I did not have the energy to sit up or eat any solid food. They ran many tests including a CT scan and frequent blood tests.

None of these produced any clue as to my problem.

That is until day four. After I had been drinking only water, my morning hemoglobin results came back at 7.0 (normal is 14) now that my blood volume was back to normal due to the water intake. I had lost 5 pints of blood.

My Small Intestine Bleeding Linked to Coumadin

At this point the several doctors on my case knew what to do, and three units of blood brought my hemoglobin up to 11.5. They concluded that the intestinal bleed had stopped on its own with the discontinuation of Coumadin and that I could be discharged.

With the discontinuation of Coumadin, the intestinal bleed had stopped on its own.

Poor Opinion of Hospital Care: This sequence of events does not reflect well on the hospital and staff and their record keeping. My wife was also not happy with the lack of communications with the cardiologist managing my case. I do not remember any discussions with any of the doctors.

A follow-up colonoscopy and endoscopy eliminated the back and front end leaving the small intestine as the default source of the bleed. At this point it was concluded that I should avoid Coumadin until such time as this problem in my small intestine is identified and corrected, if ever.

Switched to Aspirin: The newer anticoagulants, not requiring INR monitoring, were not yet available [in 2008]; so I was left on 81mg aspirin for anticoagulation.

Next 8 Years: Paroxysmal A-Fib Gets Worse

As time progressed my A-FIB was clearly paroxysmal with episodes lasting between 1 and 2 days with 8 episodes over the next 8 years. The interval between episodes ranged from 0.6 months to 22 months. This calculates out that I was in A-FIB only 1% of the time.

Symptoms were minimal, consisting of slight fatigue with the loss of the atrial pumping action and the noted irregular heartbeat.

I could not identify any thing that triggered or ended an A-FIB event. I always self-converted and had to pay attention to even note when the sinus rhythm returned.

When the last A-FIB attack lasted three weeks, it was time to consider an ablation.

Arrhythmic Drug: Sotalol dosage was adjusted between 160 and 240 mg/day with reductions when needed to increase the resting heat rate or increased as the A-FIB frequency and duration eventually began to increase.  Fortunately, this A-FIB frequency meant that anticoagulation therapy was likely of little value in my case. [Some say that clots can form and cause an A-Fib stroke in only 24 hours.]

A-FIB Frequency and Duration Increase: Sotalol and other antiarrhythmic drugs typically are effective for only a few years at most, but in my case, Sotalol worked for 8 years before the A-FIB frequency and durations began increasing.

When the last A-FIB attack lasted three weeks, it was time to consider an ablation at age 74.

Elects CryoBalloon Ablation at Age 74

By this time [2016] cryogenic balloon ablations had become readily available in major medical centers in the US, and I was now living in the Seattle area. This was a major improvement over the RF burning ablations for the Pulmonary Veins, the most common sources of A-FIB.

My local cardiologist referred me to Dr. Derrell S. Wells with the Swedish Heart and Vascular Clinic at Cherry Hill in Seattle. (I had noted his listing on the A-Fib.com directory of doctors.)  My local cardiologist had an echocardiogram done and forwarded it to Dr. Wells who reviewed my echocardiogram and medical history. He concluded I was a good fit for a cryogenic PVI ablation.

My EP Skilled in Both CryoBalloon and RF Ablation Techniques

My left atrium was enlarged but still within the acceptable range. He could also do RF ablations at the same time if other active electrical sites were found.  Dr. Wells looked at my Coumadin adjustment experience and commented that it was no wonder I had a bleeding problem.

My EP could also do RF ablations at the same time if other active electrical sites were found. 

Surprisingly, there was only a 6-week waiting time between the initial appointment and the ablation procedure. The day before, I reported for x-rays and an MRI to create a three-dimensional model of my heart for use in the procedure. The clinic had at least two MRI units and at least one was a 3 Tesla unit.

Stopping Sotalol Causes Problems

Three days before the ablation I was to stop the Sotalol. (During the procedure, they do not want a drug suppressing any A-FIB tendency.)

Stopping the Sotalol proved to be a significant problem for me. Two days after stopping the Sotalol, I reported for the MRI and a checkup by Dr. Well’s nurse practitioner.

My heart rate was above 100, blood pressure was high, and I had the “shakes” so much that I could not sign my name in a recognizable script.

The nurse said if I thought it necessary, I could take a Sotalol which I did.  One hour later I was back to normal.

CryoBalloon Ablation: Successful 2.5-hour Procedure

The next morning, I was prepped for the catheter procedure.

Dr. Wells used conscious sedation, but I was totally unaware of anything during the 2.5-hour procedure. All four pulmonary veins were ablated using two freeze-thaw cycles for each vein.  Electrical isolation was confirmed.

No Significant Bleeding/No Complications: No other A-FIB sources could be identified, and an arrhythmic event could not be chemically induced. Total fluoroscopic time was 11.5 minutes, a relatively low time. No significant bleeding issues were experienced at the catheter insertion point. Dr. Wells said that my case was a “text book” case with no complications during the procedure.

Blood Pressure/Heartrate Alarm: Later that evening my blood pressure and heartrate increased significantly as I had not taken a Sotalol for 30 hours. I asked the nurse to give me 120mg of Sotalol which he did after consulting the on-call doctor. Again, that solved the problem within the hour.

I was discharged the following morning.

Most Patients Not on Sotalol for 8 Years: Dr. Wells said he had not seen a case where Sotalol had provided a significant contribution to blood pressure control, but then most patients have not been taking it for 8 years.

Recovery―Replacing Eliquis with Pradaxa

Over the next several months the Sotalol was gradually replaced by another blood pressure medication (Carvedilol added to Losartan and Torsemide).

Eliquis caused me significant congestion, trouble breathing, and wheezing. It was replaced by Pradaxa with no issues.

Eliquis was prescribed for at least three months after the ablation to avoid blood clots while the heart tissue healed. Eliquis caused me significant congestion, trouble breathing, and wheezing. It was replaced by Pradaxa with no further issues.

I should also note that I had been taking 20mg/day of Omeprazole for 6 years for gastritis which may have helped me tolerate the Pradaxa, but this is pure conjecture.

After One Year Still A-Fib Free

During the three months [blanking period] following the ablation I experienced no A-FIB events. But I did observe a few missed heart beats ranging from 1 to 10 that gradually diminished to zero.

There were no irregular heartbeats as experienced with A-FIB. After three months, I was given a wearable battery powered cardiac monitor for two weeks which was then mailed off for analysis.

Off Pradaxa: The results came back in a normal range, and Dr. Wells gave me permission to discontinue the Pradaxa. Almost one year later I continue to be A-FIB free.

Self-Monitoring of Blood Pressure & Pulse: I monitor my blood pressure frequently, and the unit I use will also detect an irregular heartbeat. I can also feel the pulse in my wrist. This takes about 5 seconds to do, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere and at any time. It was obvious when I was in A-Fib.

Lessons Learned:

I guess the point of my story is that even if your symptoms are minimal and paroxysmal, do not hesitate to consider an ablation if you begin moving toward persistent A-FIB.

Success Rate diminishes: As your A-Fib becomes more persistent, the lower your success rate of a permanent cure.

Don’t Delay Too Long: The rapid advances in ablation procedures over the last 20 years suggest delaying if possible, but not beyond the point of a diminishing probability of a successful cure.

Larry Stichweh
lastic1(at)live.com

Editor’s Comments:
Larry’s Easily Cured Case: We’re grateful to Larry for sharing his A-Fib story of being cured by a single, short CryoBalloon ablation, which is similar to the experience of most A-Fib patients (unlike many of the stories in A-Fib.com which tend to be unusual and often heroic).
Success with Sotalol: Larry had remarkable success with the antiarrhythmic drug Sotalol which also has beta-blocker properties.  But don’t count on any antiarrhythmic drug to control or eliminate A-Fib for 8 years. Most antiarrhythmic drugs tend to lose their effectiveness over time, as Sotalol eventually did for Larry.
Anticoagulants are Considered High Risk Drugs: Coumadin and all anticoagulants are considered high risk medications. They work by causing or increasing bleeding. Even though they are certainly preferable to having an A-Fib stroke, they carry their own set of risks.
Larry could have died from his internal bleeding. He will have to monitor and watch out for GI bleeding probably for the rest of his life.
But on the other hand, Larry was having A-Fib episodes longer than 24 hours which can cause clots and strokes. One of the most difficult decisions you and your doctor have to make is whether or not to be on an anticoagulant and which one to take. And that decision may change as you do.
Continued Monitoring: Larry will see Dr. Wells or his colleagues for at least once a year (but, like me, probably for the rest of his life).
He may want to make sure he doesn’t slip back into silent A-Fib, so he may use DIY monitors at home to check himself regularly.

Spotlight: 3 Recent A-Fib Personal Stories of Hope and Encouragement

Our Personal Experiences stories are one of the most visited areas of A-Fib.com. Dozens have shared their personal experience (starting with the Steve Ryan’s story in 1998). Each story is told in their own words. Many stories span years, even decades. Symptoms will vary, and treatments choices run the full gamut as well as their ‘Lessons Learned’.

Recent Additions to our Gallery of A-Fib Personal Stories

These A-Fib patients have been where you are right now. Each author tells their story to help bolster your determination to seek a life free of A-Fib.

Frances K.

Frances Koepnick from Athens, GA, was diagnosed with silent persistent A-Fib in 2014. Unlike many other stories on A-Fib.com, Frances was familiar with Atrial Fibrillation. She’s the third person in her family with A-Fib—after her mother and older sister. (However, they both had paroxysmal A-Fib). Read about her 3-year journey to a life free of the burden of A-Fib. Continue reading Frances’ story.

Personal A-Fib story by Charn Deol, BC, Canada at A-Fib.com

Charn Deol

Charn Deol, Richmond, BC, Canada. It’s been a 23-year ordeal for him. He was 43 and had just returned to Canada after working for years in Southeast Asia when he was first aware of a few skipped heartbeats. A week later, the irregular heart beating got worse and was diagnosed as A-Fib. At the same time, Charn was discovered to have a second medical problem—very high levels of mercury in his blood. Continue reading Charn’s story.

Roger Finnern

Roger Finnern, from Tempe, AZ, shared about 4 years in chronic asymptomatic Atrial Fibrillation. He writes about being on amiodarone, how he did a sleep apnea study (at home), and used acupuncture to help reduce his A-Fib symptoms. He writes, at age 67: “I had a cardiologist who wanted me to do nothing but take a low dose aspirin and live with it. After two years of being in Chronic A-Fib, I went out on my own…”continue reading Roger’s story.

For more personal experiences, go to Personal A-Fib Stories of Hope and Encouragement.

Note: Patients sharing their personal experiences are often quite frank about the treatments received, their doctors and medical centers. Their opinions are their own.

HAVE A STORY TO SHARE?

How about you!? Do you have a personal A-Fib experience to share with other patients? It can be your own story or perhaps the story of your spouse, parent or sibling. Just tell the story from your point-of-view. If you are interesting in offering your insights and ‘lessons learned’, read how to write and submit your A-Fib story!

You Can be A-Fib Free—Just Like Me!

In honor of U.S. Independence Day this week (July 4th), let’s celebrate! A big cheer and hooray for all our A-Fib.com readers who are now free of the burden of Atrial Fibrillation.

To be inspired, go to Personal A-Fib Stories of Hope and Courage, and read my story. Or choose from over 90 stories by others who have been where you are now.

I found my freedom from A-Fib. You can too! You don’t have to settle for a lifetime on drugs. Seek your cure.

Seek your Cure at A-Fib.com

BTW: Patti found this photo and writes: “Our family’s Independence Day July 4th picnic celebrations always include a cold slice of watermelon!”

Her Mother & Sister Had Atrial Fibrillation, Then She Develops Silent Persistent A-Fib

Frances Koepnick from Athens, GA, was diagnosed with silent persistent A-Fib in 2014. Unlike many other stories on A-Fib.com, Frances was familiar with Atrial Fibrillation. She’s the third person in her family with A-Fib—after her mother and older sister. (However, they both had paroxysmal A-Fib). Read about her 3-year journey to a life free of the burden of A-Fib:

Frances K.

“I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) at age 69, while undergoing a pre-operative physical examination prior to hip replacement surgery. This was a surprising development since my A-Fib was completely “silent” with no symptoms.

Six Cardioversions: Not a Long-Term Solution: Eventually, I underwent a total of six cardioversions in an attempt to return my heart to normal sinus rhythm. Three of these procedures were electrical cardioversions and three were by means of intravenous drugs. I soon learned that cardioversion is rarely effective for maintaining normal sinus rhythm over a significant period of time.

I asked a lot of questions— and managed to irritate several physicians.

Consulted Five Cardiologists: I eventually consulted a total of five cardiologists. The advice of the first two cardiologists was to “just take my medications and live with A-Fib”. I have a background in anatomy/physiology as well as microbiology, so I asked a lot of questions— and managed to irritate several physicians.”  …continue reading her story…

New Category of Personal A-Fib Stories: ‘Natural Therapies and Holistic Treatments’

With so many personal A-Fib stories on A-Fib.com (over 95), you may want to read those similar to your own. Our ‘Listed by Subject‘ page displays cross-referenced stories in five major Themes/Topics and several sub-categories.

New Subject Category: Natural Therapies and Holistic Treatments

We often receive requests from A-Fib.com readers seeking non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical treatments options for relief of their A-Fib symptoms. Our new category is crossed-referenced by these topics. Just click on the story number to jump to that A-Fib experience.

DaVinci's Vitruvian Man (Proportions of Man) at A-Fib.com

DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man

Natural Therapies and Holistic Treatments
•  Yoga: 94, 59, 27
•  Chiropractic: 81, 599
•  Acupressure/Acupuncture: 94, 6859, 9
•  Meditation: 68, 59, 17
•  Naturopathy: 73
•  Nutrition/Diet: 73, 715931, 17
•  Natural Remedies: 66

This list will continue to grow as we add new personal A-Fib stories. So, check back from time to time.

Search A-Fib.com by Subject, Keyword or Phrase

Search by Subject, Keyword or Phrase

You can go beyond our Personal Experience stories to find more about alternative treatments. Search our site by keyword, name or phrase. Just use the ‘Search’ box found in the upper right corner of every web page.

Have an A-Fib Story to Share? It can be your own story or perhaps your spouse, parent or sibling. Read how to write and submit your A-Fib story.

 

Silent Persistent A-Fib: A Proactive Patient’s 3-Year Journey to Burden Relief

By Frances E. Koepnick, Athens, GA, June, 2017

Frances, now A-Fib free after 3 yrs.

 “I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) in April 2014, at age 69, while undergoing a pre-operative physical examination prior to hip replacement surgery. This was a surprising development since my A-Fib was completely “silent” with no symptoms.

My A-Fib was diagnosed as being ‘persistent’ rather than ‘paroxysmal’. These two forms of A-Fib are quite different. However, both types of A-Fib are usually treated initially with prescription drugs. I was given the beta blocker atenolol to reduce my heart rate and the anti-coagulant Eliquis to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Family History of Atrial Fibrillation

Unlike many other stories on A-Fib.com, I was familiar with Atrial Fibrillation. I am the third person in my family with A-Fib after my mother and older sister. However, they both had paroxysmal A-Fib while I was diagnosed with persistent A-Fib.

On-going studies indicate that there may be a genetic link to A-Fib.  Consequently, if someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with A-Fib, then your risk of developing it in the future may be increased.”

Six Cardioversions: Not a Long-Term Solution

Eventually, I underwent a total of six cardioversions in an attempt to return my heart to normal sinus rhythm. Three of these procedures were electrical cardioversions and three were by means of intravenous drugs. I soon learned that cardioversion is rarely effective for maintaining normal sinus rhythm over a significant period of time.

Consequently, I did not consider it to be a long-term solution for my A-Fib.

The First Two Cardiologists Advised: ‘Just Take Your Medications and Live with A-Fib’―No! No! No!

I eventually consulted a total of five cardiologists―three in the state of Georgia, one in Manhattan and one in Bordeaux, France. I have a background in anatomy/physiology as well as microbiology, so I asked a lot of questions and managed to irritate several physicians.

“I eventually consulted a total of five cardiologists. I asked a lot of questions and managed to irritate several physicians.”

The advice of the first two cardiologists was to “just take my medications and live with A-Fib”.

If your cardiologist recommends this treatment regimen, I urge you to get a second, third or even fourth opinion.

More Interviews: Three Electrophysiologists & Lots of Questions

After my first electrical cardioversion in March 2015, my heart remained in normal sinus rhythm for only 12 hours. At that time, I had been in persistent A-Fib for one year, and was re-classified as long-term persistent A-Fib. That motivated me to pursue a catheter ablation.

I ultimately discussed an ablation procedure with three different electrophysiologists and consequently learned to ask lots of questions such as:

  • What is the percentage rate of successful ablations performed by this cardiologist/electrophysiologist?
  • What is the risk of serious complications?
  • How many ablations does this cardiologist/electrophysiologist perform at his/her facility annually? (My opinion is: “the more, the better”.)
  • What type of instrumentation is used for electrical cardiac imaging? (My opinion is the CardioInsight or ECGI/ECVUE imaging system; FDA-approved for the USA in February 2017.)

I finally located a cardiologist/electrophysiologist (EP) at a regional medical center who performed ablations for long-term persistent A-Fib.

Look for the Best EP―and Ablate Sooner Rather Than Later

At this point I had been in A-fib for 17 months. The first 7 months of this time frame was necessary due to my need for two total hip replacements which were performed 5 months apart. However, the additional 12 month delay was due to my procrastination in seeking a third opinion from another EP.  That was definitely a mistake. This additional delay reduced my success rate for a successful first ablation to approximately 65% and it also increased the chance that I might need a second ablation in the future. (I anticipated I might need a 2nd ablation because of this.)

 

“…This delay of treatment reduced my chance of a successful first ablation to approximately 65%. I anticipated I might need a 2nd ablation because of this.”

Ablation for Persistent A-Fib is More Difficult

There are many competent electrophysiologists in the USA who have been successful with ablations for paroxysmal A-Fib. However, ablations for persistent and long-term persistent A-Fib are more difficult, require a higher level of expertise, and are performed less frequently in the USA.

CHU Hopitaux de Bordeaux logoBordeaux, France: Consequently, in September, 2015 I decided to have my ablation for long-term persistent A-Fib performed in Bordeaux, France. I chose this location because it’s internationally known for its cardiologists/electrophysiologists as well as for its use of the computerized CardioInsight or ECGI imaging system. [They cured Steve Ryan’s A-Fib back in 1998.]

This arrhythmia group is headed by Dr. Michel Haissaguerre and Dr. Pierre Jais, and they perform ablations for paroxysmal, persistent and long-term persistent A-Fib. Of course, French citizens are first priority for admission, but out-of-country patients can be wait-listed.

Pierre Jais MD

Fran’s EP: Pierre Jais MD

Not Covered by My Insurance: I do need to mention that the decision to travel to Bordeaux, France, was financially significant. My medical treatment was not covered by insurance.

The Hopital Haut Leveque-Cardiologique in Bordeaux is not an impressive building. It was most likely built in the 1970s, the patient rooms are not air conditioned, and the parking lot is gravel rather than pavement. However, the French government obviously invests their health care funds in medical research, excellent physicians, quality hospital staffing, and state-of-the-art medical equipment.

“The hospital staff speak English, but I did purchase an English/French app with medical terminology for my smartphone.”

The physicians and most of the hospital staff speak English, so there really isn’t a significant language barrier problem. I did purchase an English/French app with medical terminology for my smartphone, and it was helpful on occasion. [In Bordeaux they have broken ground on the new LIRYC Institute which is intended to become one of the premier research institutions in Europe.]

Difficult Six-Hour Ablation at Bordeaux, then Electrical Cardioversions

My first ablation by Dr. Pierre Jais was a difficult procedure requiring six hours for completion. [Not only were her Pulmonary Vein openings isolated, but in addition, non-PV triggers were identified, mapped, and isolated using the CardioInsight ECGI mapping system.]

Fran wearing the mapping vest.

During the three-week time period following this ablation, two electrical cardioversions were also required. This was later explained to me by Dr. Jais as the interior of the atria needed to heal sufficiently so that scar tissue would successfully block abnormal electrical signals.

After this ablation, I continued to take the anticoagulant Eliquis and was also put on the anti-arrhythmic drug amiodarone for six months.

Normal Sinus Rhythm for 11 Months, then Atypical Flutter

I knew at the time of my first ablation that I most likely would require a second ablation due to my predicted one-year success rate of 65%.

My heart actually stayed in normal sinus rhythm (NSR) for a total of 11 months. Then I experienced three episodes of atypical atrial flutter over a two-week period, and each of these episodes resulted in an admission to the emergency room. After three intravenous drug cardioversions, I was placed back on amiodarone to maintain a normal sinus rhythm.

Suspected Sleep Apnea

After my third ER admission, I suspected that these episodes might have been triggered by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). I was waking up during the night with an extremely uncomfortable dry mouth even though my head was elevated while sleeping.

I consulted my dentist, and he referred me to a cardiologist/sleep specialist who ordered a sleep study. This study confirmed that my OAS was “severe” during periods of rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

Sleep Apnea and A-Fib: I would like to emphasize that OSA is a significant “trigger” for A-Fib. A recent study found that 43% of individuals with A-Fib also had a diagnosis of OSA.

“I suspected that these episodes might have been triggered by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a significant “trigger” for A-Fib. Of all A-Fib patients 43% are also diagnosed with OSA.”

This means that all individuals diagnosed with A-Fib need to be screened with a sleep study. If OSA is confirmed, it needs to be addressed immediately so that any future treatment for A-Fib is not compromised.

OSA can be controlled by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines whereby you wear a face mask at night when sleeping. I decided instead to have a custom oral appliance (FDA-approved TAP3) made by a sleep dentist. This oral appliance prevents my lower jaw from moving out of position when sleeping and thereby ensures that my airway remains open.

Second Ablation by Dr. Vivek Reddy Using CardioInsight ECGI

Dr. Vivek Reddy, Mt Siani Hospital

Dr Vivek Reddy, Mt Sinai Hospital

My second ablation was performed by Dr. Vivek Reddy at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, New York in March 2017.

I had been referred to Dr. Reddy by my doctors in Bordeaux. It was fortuitous that Mount Sinai Hospital had just obtained the FDA-approved CardioInsight (ECGI) imaging system which was previously only available in Europe.

The physicians, staff and facilities at Mount Sinai Hospital are absolutely excellent. The arrhythmia group there is headed by Dr. Reddy, and I found him to be professional, personable and comfortable answering my questions.

My second ablation was another difficult, six-hour procedure, but ultimately successful. [If interested in Dr. Reddy’s O.R. Report on Frances’ ablation, see my comments below.]

I recommend that you go online to the Mount Sinai Hospital website and then watch short informative videos on A-Fib which are presented by Dr. Reddy himself. See What Do I Need to Know About Atrial Fibrillation? (21:29).

Success & Lessons Learned

My 3-year journey with A-Fib has included numerous cardioversions, two ablations and a belated diagnosis of underlying obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

It’s now about three months since my second ablation, and I am doing well. I no longer am taking the anti-arrhythmic drug amiodarone, but continue on the anticoagulant Eliquis.

My recommendations:  Look locally, regionally, nationally and perhaps internationally in order to identify the best option for a successful ablation. (Yes, consider traveling to find the best EP for you.)

It is also important to seek an ablation sooner rather than later as a delay may decrease your chance of a successful procedure.

 Yes, consider traveling to find the best EP for you…seek an ablation sooner rather than later, a delay may decrease your chance of a successful procedure. 

Seek up-to-date information : I highly recommend the website, www.A-Fib.com for up-to-date information on A-Fib. This website is run by Steve Ryan, Ph.D. and―although he is not a medical doctor― he is an A-Fib expert who explains A-Fib in terms readily understood by the average person.

Steve also attends the AF International Symposium held annually in the USA, and his synopses of conference presentations contain the latest in A-Fib research. Steve was and continues to be my A-Fib coach.

Smartphone app: Finally, I recommend the AliveCor Kardia device ($99) and app for smartphones. This app determines your heart rate in beats per minute (BPM) and also records a 30-second electrocardiogram (ECG) using two electrodes attached to the back of your phone. Kardia’s software interprets your ECG as “normal” or as “possible A-Fib”, and you can email a copy of an ECG directly to your cardiologist. [Also see our 2016 Update: AliveCor Kardia Review by Travis Van Slooten]

I welcome your email,
Frances Koepnick
fek67@hotmail.com

Editor’s Comments:
We’re most grateful to Frances for her story. She’s a great example of a proactive patient. When told to ‘just take her meds and live with A-Fib’, she said NO! Even though she was relatively symptom-free, she knew how destructive A-Fib can be over time.
Don’t Just Live in A-Fib: Leaving patients in A-Fib overworks the heart and leads to remodeling and fibrosis which increase the risk of stroke, and also doubles the risk of developing dementia. For more read: ‘Drug Therapies’: Rate Control and A-Fib Doubles Risk of Dementia. If you hear someone tell you to just live with A-Fib, get a second opinion (or third, or fourth!).
Educate Yourself About A-Fib―Be Proactive: Frances knew she would be a more difficult case to fix. She researched who were the best EPs for her case. She asked all the right questions of the EPs she interviewed. (See Selecting a New Doctor? 10 Questions You’ve Got to Ask.) She even went to Bordeaux, France, on her own dime.
Find the Best EP You Can: All Electrophysiologists are not equal. Like Frances, don’t just settle for the nearest EP. Consider traveling to the best, most experienced EP you can afford, particularly if you have progressed to persistent A-Fib which is harder to fix. (See Finding the Right Doctor for You and Your A-Fib.)
Silent A-Fib: If You’re 65 or Older, Get Yourself Tested: Frances is lucky. She could have easily been one of the 25% of stroke victims who only discover their silent A-Fib after having a stroke. Everyone 65-years-old or older, should be tested for silent A-Fib.
Sleep Apnea: Most EPs today will insist you get tested for sleep apnea before performing a catheter ablation. Why? Patients with untreated sleep apnea have a greater risk of their A-Fib reoccurring even after a successful ablation. Also, for a lucky few, just getting rid of sleep apnea restores them to normal sinus rhythm (NSR). To learn more, see Sleep Apnea: When Snoring Can Be Lethal
CardioInsight ECGI/ECVUE System: The CardioInsight ECGI/ECVUE mapping system is probably the most significant, game changing improvement in mapping A-Fib, particularly for people with persistent A-Fib. To learn more, see Bordeaux New ECGI Ablation Protocol—Re-Mapping During Ablation.
Special 12-page report by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

FREE 12-page Report

Frances’ O.R. Report: Using the CardioInsight system, Dr. Reddy found 5 A-Fib drivers in Frances’ atria. (In typical persistent cases, 4 driver regions are usually identified. 7 drivers is the maximum found in more difficult cases.) (For you technical types, the 5 A-Fib drivers were found: at the base of the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA), the Ostium of the Coronary Sinus (CS), the posterior Left Atrium (LA), the Right Atrial Appendage (RAA) and the lateral Right Atrium (RA).)
When Dr. Reddy ablated at the base of the LAA, Frances’ A-Fib terminated. (That’s the ideal result when A-Fib terminates during the ablation.) But then Dr. Reddy checked to see if there were any other regions in her heart producing A-Fib/Flutter signals. By pacing her heart, he was able to induce Atrial Flutter (CL 380msec). Using activation mapping, he found the re-entry atrial flutter circuit was coming from the anterior inferior RA. Ablating this area terminated her Flutter.

For more about O.R. reports, see my free report: How to Read Your Operating Room Report.

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If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Saturday, July 22, 2017

 

Now A-Fib Free: A Personal A-Fib Story 23 Years in the Making

It’s been a 23-year ordeal for Charn Deol who’s from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. He was 43 in August of 1993 when he was aware of a few skipped heartbeats. He had just returned to Canada after working for years in Southeast Asia. A week later, the irregular heart beating got worse in duration.

Personal A-Fib story by Charn Deol, BC, Canada at A-Fib.com

Charn Deol, BC, Canada

At the same time, Charn’s story is complicated by two other medical problems. First, simultaneous with the start of his A-Fib, a dull aching pain started in the left chest region the size of a 50-cent piece. Second, he was discovered to have very high levels of mercury in his blood.

Mercury Cleared, Atrial Fibrillation Stops!

By 2000, through chelation therapy treatments, the mercury was finally out of his system. And surprise! His atrial fibrillation stopped too. (It is known mercury can concentrate in nerve tissue.) While it’s only a correlative relationship―mercury out of system―his atrial fibrillation did stop.

For 10 years He had No Atrial Fibrillation

In 2010, while starting a hike, the atrial fibrillation began again. The A-Fib would last 6-8 hours and occur an average of 2 times per week. He was immediately tested for heavy metals again…continue reading Charn’s A-Fib story…

Now A-Fib Free: A 23-Year Atrial Fibrillation Ordeal, Trial, Tribulations and Recovery

By Charn Deol, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, May 2017
Personal A-Fib story by Charn Deol, BC, Canada at A-Fib.com

Charn Deol, B.C., Canada

My medical issues with atrial fibrillation started when I was 43 in August of 1993 when I was aware of having a few skipped heartbeats. I had just returned to Canada having been working extensively for the last few years in Southeast Asia. About a week later, the irregular heart beating got worse in duration.

At the same time, a dull aching pain started in the left chest region the size of a 50-cent piece.

A-Fib Drugs Don’t Work, Chest Pain Condition Worse

Upon being sent to a heart specialist in September 1993, numerous drugs were prescribed to keep my heart in rhythm (digoxin, flecainide, sotalol). They did not work, some had serious side effects, and every few days I would go into atrial fibrillation.

The atrial fibrillation happened once or twice per week and lasted from a few hours to 24 hours. Then it would stop on its own, and the heart would go into normal sinus rhythm.

Second medical condition: At the same time, the very centered pain in the upper left chest area kept getting worse and added to the debilitation of daily life. These medical conditions started my long journey to find relief (cure) from two medical conditions that were not being controlled or cured by conventional medical treatments.

Alternative Healthcare Practitioners―India & China, Too

In my search for a cure(s), I met a family practitioner and other medical and alternative specialists who used treatment protocols that could be labeled ‘experimental’ or ‘out of the box’, as they say.

I was all mixed up as to what was going on in my body. This can be psychologically very distressing if you do not have a strong family/friend support network.

While discovering alternative medical treatments in 1994, I also went to India for Ayurvedic treatment [one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems] and even to China for treatment. Most alternative (non-allopathic) medical practitioners look at the body as an interconnected processing unit and believed in my case that the pain in the left chest and the atrial fibrillation were connected. This was not the thinking of the allopathic doctors, so I was all mixed up as to what was going on in my body. This can be psychologically very distressing if you do not have a strong family/friend support network.

Having been to a multitude of healthcare practitioners, numerous chiropractors, massage therapists and other more esoteric healthcare practitioners (100s over the 23 years), there was no resolution to my medical condition.

Encainide Drug Therapy: Up and Out

The heart specialist that gave me sotalol [an antiarrhythmic drug] in 1995 gave me a dose that dropped the heartbeat to 30 beats per minute putting me into the emergency room, but the drug had no effect on my atrial fibrillation.

In 1996 seeing my third cardiologist, I was put on a drug called encainide [also an antiarrhythmic drug], to be used on an as needed basis [pill-in-the-pocket].  It worked and would stop my atrial fibrillation in approximately 20 minutes.

But it had no effect on the chest pain which was getting worse now with a pain spot in the left shoulder blade area also the size of a 50-cent piece having started out of nowhere.

Encainide is a class Ic antiarrhythmic agent. It is no longer used because of its frequent proarrhythmic side effects.

About 6 months after starting on the encainide, one of my friend’s son with a heart condition since childhood passed away. And I was told he had just been started on a new drug for him called “encainide” along with “sotalol”. The same cardiologist had been providing this drug free of charge to me, so I was pleased that it worked for me and cost me nothing.

The problem I found out was that it was illegal for the cardiologist to prescribe this drug because it had killed too many people. When he got caught, then encainide was no longer available. (Encainide is a class 1C antiarrhythmic drug no longer used because of its frequent proarrhythmic effects.)

Chelation for Very High Levels of Mercury

I had the highest level of mercury ever seen by the lab in any of their patients.

While all the above was going on, I was tested for heavy metals through urine analysis. It was discovered that I had the highest level of mercury ever seen by the lab in any of their patients (7400 nmol/dl). So I started protocols to take the mercury out of my body using chelation treatments with EDTA and then DMPS and DMSA (metal chelators).

At the same time, my other medical practitioners had me on oral and IV multivitamins and mineral protocols.

Mercury Cleared, Atrial Fibrillation Stops!

By 2000, the mercury was finally out of my system and my atrial fibrillation stopped! It is known mercury can concentrate in nerve tissue. While only a correlative relationship―mercury out of system―my atrial fibrillation did stop.

Chest Pain Condition Worse than Ever

From 2000 to 2010 I had NO atrial fibrillation. But the chest pain condition did not stop, and it got worse.

From 2000 to 2010 I had no atrial fibrillation. But the chest pain condition did not stop, and it got worse extending into my gut region. All medical protocols tried could not alleviate this pain, nor was any etiology discovered as to what was the underlying cause of the pain condition.

Thanks to my resiliency, I was still able to go hiking, skiing, travel and work part-time on my own schedule. But it took great perseverance.

After 10 Years A-Fib Returns―and Heavy Levels of Lead (This Time)!

In 2010, while starting a hike, the atrial fibrillation began again. The A-Fib would last 6-8 hours and occur an average of 2 times per week.

I was immediately tested for heavy metals again, and this time I had high levels of lead, not mercury. Even with thorough investigations of potential sources for this lead contamination in my body, no source was discovered. We worked (and continue to work) on getting these lead levels down (I had no high lead levels back in the 1990’s when tested―only mercury).

Amiodarone Bad Side Effects

I again began doing alternative treatments to deal with the atrial fibrillation and the pain condition, nothing worked. I went to China again for treatments, IV EDTA infusions again, etc., but the pain persisted at high levels and the atrial fibrillation kept getting worse.

A new cardiologist put me on a new drug called amiodarone. This drug lead to paranoia. This is another cardiologist I dropped.

In 2012, I saw a new cardiologist who put me on flecainide again. And when it did not work, he provided me with a new drug called amiodarone. This drug lead to paranoia and left me with an epididymitis in my right testicle which I suffer from to this day. (Epididymitis is inflammation of the tube at the back of the testicle that stores and carries sperm.) He had no compassion for my dilemma. This is another cardiologist I dropped.

Ablation in Vancouver, B.C. Fails―A-Fib Worse and More Chest Pain

By late 2014, the atrial fibrillation was occurring on average every second day and lasting 24-38 hours.  My next cardiologist sent me to the Atrial Fibrillation clinic in Vancouver where I was evaluated by an electrophysiologist. The A-Fib was very debilitating, so I was ready for surgery.

VIDEO: Catheter Ablation For A-Fib: What it is, How it’s Done and What Results Can Be Expected

WATCH A VIDEO: Catheter Ablation For A-Fib: What it is, How it’s Done and What Results Can Be Expected (4:15)

I asked for the most experienced electrophysiologist at the clinic to do the surgery. I waited an extra 3 months for the surgery because this highly qualified electrophysiologist was in so much demand.

Finally, in November 2015 I had the ablation therapy (it took approximately 2.5 hours). I came out of the surgery worse than ever. The atrial fibrillation did not stop, and the pain was worse than ever in my left chest, left shoulder-blade and gut regions.

AV Node Ablation & Pacemaker?―No! No! No!

The electrophysiologist wanted to wait for the 6 month recuperation period after the ablation therapy to see if I would go into regular sinus rhythm. By September 2016 (9 months later), I was worse than ever. In November, I saw my electrophysiologist under the impression that he would do another ablation treatment, since I was told and with my own research had confirmed that ablation treatments may be required for up to four times for the treatment to work.

This “top” electrophysiologist recommended I have a pacemaker put in and the AV node be ablated instead, so that the pacemaker could take over the regular beating of the heart. I asked the electrophysiologist why not do further ablation treatments as per the standard practice. He said if that is what I wanted, he would do another ablation. This was quite disconcerting―I am relying on his extensive knowledge to help me in a field where I am no expert. We agreed to set up a surgical date for a second ablation on December 12, 2016.

My gut said to ‘no longer trust’ this supposed best electrophysiologist at the hospital.

Upon leaving the office and arriving home, I informed my wife of the unpleasant appointment I had with the electrophysiologist, especially his lackadaisical attitude towards my serious heart condition. As a patient, the relationship is somewhat like that of a child with a parent. The patient is naïve, scared, distraught and looking for a path of reassurance from the medical profession. This was not the case in this situation.

This is when “gut instincts” come into play. My gut said to ‘no longer trust’ this supposed best electrophysiologist at the hospital and search for an alternative path. (And I canceled my December 12, 2016 scheduled ablation.)

Counseling with Steve Ryan

Having been a reader of Steve Ryan’s website, I reached out to him and agreed for him to become my advocate and provide me with advice on how to deal with my current concerns over either going along with having a pacemaker placed in my chest along with ablation of the AV node OR to try a second ablation. Steve recommended a second ablation and the Bordeaux Clinic―it was too early to place a pacemaker/ablate the AV node at this stage.

Following this detailed discussion with Steve, I spoke with my wife and got a hold of the Bordeaux Clinic in France on December 2, 2016. With some back and forth email communication, ablation therapy was arranged for December 12, 2016. Somehow with luck and quick action, my wife and I were on an airplane to France and arrived in Bordeaux on December 10.

Second Ablation in Bordeaux and Use of CardioInsight Vest

The surgery on December 12 was done by Prof. Mélèze Hocini. Instead of taking the standard time of 2.5 to 3 hours for the surgery, it took well over 6 hours until approximately 4 pm. Dr Hocini was on her feet and exhausted.

My surgery was much more complicated than envisioned, and there were many areas that had to be ablated not only for the atrial fibrillation but also for atrial flutter.

I was informed the next day that my surgery was much more complicated than envisioned, and there were many areas that had to be ablated not only for the atrial fibrillation but also for atrial flutter. It appeared the “top” specialist I had used in Vancouver had not done his job properly. (Remember that I had been worse for the year after my first ablation).

Dr. Hocini was able to see the numerous sites leading to the atrial fibrillation/flutter in my heart due to an advanced computer assisted mapping vest (CardioInsight) which helps the electrophysiologist see in more detail cells in the heart that are acting erratically.  This system is just starting to be used in the U.S. by a few doctors. (See Bordeaux ECGI CardioInsight)

Successful Ablation—No A-Fib, But Chest Pain Condition Continues

I felt great the day after the surgery, no atrial fibrillation or flutter. Pain syndrome still there. I remained in the hospital for 4 more days and all went well, and then stayed in France for 7 more days sightseeing. No problems. I was to continue on Xarelto to keep the blood thin [for risk of stroke].

At Home A-Fib Returns with Persistent A-Flutter

Upon arriving back in Canada, the atrial fibrillation and flutter returned. Dr Hocini recommended cardioversion which I did twice but I still ended up in persistent atrial flutter with a heartbeat in the 130 range but no longer irregular.

Another cardioversion with sotalol converted my heart beat to sinus rhythm. I have now remained in rhythm since February 17, 2017.

Beta Blockers were tried to lower the heartbeat for a few weeks which did not work. Dr. Hocini recommended another cardioversion with sotalol prescribed for after the cardioversion. This was done on February 17, 2017. The heartbeat converted to sinus rhythm (65 heartbeat and was regular).

Normal Sinus Rhythm―4+ Months So Far

I have now remained in rhythm since February 17, 2017 with a quick flutter occurring once in a while. Since I am sensitive to prescription medications, I was placed on a low dose of 40 mg sotalol 2 times per day.

Minerals, Vitamin IVs for Inflammation of the Heart

With my other medical practitioners, I also had mineral and vitamin IVs during this time to help alleviate the inflammation in my heart from the surgery. I also took (and continue to take) vitamins and supplements as recommended by the other medical professionals treating me to keep the inflammation in the heart down.

Dr. Hocini had stated that since my ablation surgery was so complicated, I might have to go back to Bordeaux for another ablation. I have to get through the recommended 6 month recuperation time frame to see if the surgery has been successful. The last 3 months have me heading in the right direction of recovery.

Lessons Learned: After 23 Years with A-Fib

From this experience I’ve learned to obtain as much knowledge as possible of your condition. Trust your gut feelings if you feel uncomfortable with your surgeon. Increase your intake of nutritious foods and supplements prior to and after the surgery. Steve Ryan’s website provided me with the knowledge to make educated decisions.

If you have the funds and/or a complicated atrial fibrillation situation, please find the best surgeon you can and then still question him/her. Get a second [or third] opinion if your gut tells you to.

Doctors are just human beings with positive and negative traits like the rest of us. My first surgeon did not do his job properly in my first ablation and was flippant in his attitude in recommending a second surgical treatment.

With luck, trusting my gut instinct, educating myself, and a great family support system, I was able to find the best clinic in the world to treat me for this very debilitating medical condition.

I welcome your email if I can be of help to you.

Charn Deol, May 2017
charnee@gmail.com

P.S. FYI: My chest pain problem persists and goes undiagnosed, but that’s a story for another website!

Editor’s Comments:
Three month ‘blanking’ period: Charn’s A-Fib returned after his successful second ablation. This is quite common in more difficult cases. Your heart is ‘learning’ to beat normally again. That’s why doctors wait for at least three months before declaring your ablation a success. In Charn’s case, during the first two months, a couple rounds of cardioversions were followed by a third with sotalol prescribed after the cardioversion. This worked to get his heart back into and stay in normal sinus rhythm (NSR).
Be a proactive patient: Charn’s story is truly inspiring and an example of being proactive and not giving up. Do research yourself, get advice, and check out alternatives! We’ve been conditioned to trust doctors. Sometimes we just have to say “NO! That doesn’t make sense to me”. It’s okay to fire your doctor!
I told Charn an AV Node ablation is a treatment of last resort; it destroys the AV Node, the heart’s natural pacemaker. There’s no going back and you are forever pacemaker dependent.
Instead, I advised Charn to seek a second ablation and supplied him a list of Master EPs who routinely treat difficult, complex cases. Kudos to him for deciding to go to the Bordeaux group, considered the best in the world. [For more about Bordeaux, see my article, ‘2016 Cost of Ablation by Bordeaux Group (It’s Less Than You Might Think)’].
Chelation therapy: Chelation is FDA approved for lead removal and is the preferred medical treatment for metal poisoning. But few doctors perform chelation therapy or provide heavy metal testing. To find a doctor for these therapies, go to: http://www.acam.org. (They also do IV therapy for vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals which seems to have helped Charn.)
Amiodarone drug therapy: Amiodarone is considered the most effective of the antiarrhythmic drugs, but it’s also the most toxic and is notorious for bad side effects, including death. It’s generally prescribed only for short periods of time such as for a few months after a catheter ablation and under very close supervision. (For more about Amiodarone, see my article, ‘Amiodarone: Most Effective and Most Toxic‘.

Read our 12-page free report.

Charn’s second ablation Operating Report: Charn’s ablation was more difficult than most. He had been in A-Fib off and on for 23 years. In addition to having to work around a previous failed ablation, Dr. Hocini had to track down and ablate many non-PV triggers. Using the CardioInsight system, Dr. Hocini found A-Fib sources in the septum and in the anterior Left Atrium (LA) region, and his left and right inferior PVs had to be re-isolated.
But Dr. Hocini didn’t stop there. Using pacing again, Dr. Hocini found peri-mitral flutter in Charn’s left atrium which terminated by completing an anterior mitral line and required high energy because of the thickness of his heart tissue. Dr. Hocini had to work on Charn for six hours to the point of exhaustion.
Charn’s chest pain continues: Charn’s debilitating chest pain seemed to start when he first developed A-Fib. I’m disappointed that being A-Fib-free didn’t get rid of the pain he still experiences. I’ve never heard of pain like this coming from A-Fib. Charn has seen many doctors and tried alternative strategies to no avail.
If anyone has any ideas, strategies, or insights to help Charn’s pain, please email me.

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Reader’s Tip: When A-Fib Hits, How He Uses Intense Exercise

Ian’s a 49-year-old male and has had paroxysmal A-Fib for 6 years. He wrote me about how he uses intense exercise to get out of an Atrial Fibrillation attack. But, he adds, this strategy may be too demanding for some people.

“I can bring myself back to a normal sinus rhythm by going for a run up a steep hill near my home. It’s not necessarily a pleasant experience, but has been successful 100% of the time.

Once I’m back into rhythm, I can either continue on a run or head back home to get on with the day. The only issue is when going for a run is inconvenient—on several occasions I’ve had to run at 2 or 3 am.”

Could This Work for You? Don’t try this unless you are in otherwise good health and exercise regularly. But be cautious. (I’m an enthusiastic runner and tried this back in 1997 when I had A-Fib. It didn’t work for me, and the rapid A-Fib heart rate felt bad.) If you’re in A-Fib and try this, I recommend you don’t run alone. Take a buddy with you, at least the first time you try Ian’s strategy.

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Email your advice

We appreciate Ian taking the time to write and share what’s working for him in managing his A-Fib symptoms. If you would like to correspond with Ian, you can email him at: ian.ph@hotmail.com.

Do You Have Advice to Share? Something that helps you cope with your Atrial Fibrillation symptoms? Email me with your story.

My Atrial Fibrillation Story: I was Told to “Just Live with It.”

Roger Finnern from Tempe, AZ, wrote to share his journey back to normal sinus rhythm (NSR) after 4 years in chronic asymptomatic Atrial Fibrillation. He writes about being on amiodarone, how he did a sleep apnea study (at home), and used acupuncture to help reduce his A-Fib symptoms:

Roger Finnern

Steve, I contacted you last in December 2015 as I was in chronic A-Fib without symptoms, age 67, and had a cardiologist who wanted me to do nothing but take a low dose aspirin and live with it.
After two years of being in Chronic A-Fib, I went out on my own. With your recommendation, I contacted Dr. Vijay Swarup, Arizona Heart Rhythm Center. I ended up getting a RF ablation in early February 2016.

After Ablation, Back in A-Fib after 2 days

After my ablation, I was in rhythm only 2 days before it reverted. They performed cardioversion twice before releasing me from the hospital, and each worked only for a minute before reverting back.
Dr. Swarup was a bit miffed as he had tested all ablated points and could not produce any response back to A-fib. He said something to the effect that my heart was highly irritated. They put me on the antiarrhythmic drug amiodarone to convert at home.

Amiodarone image

Amiodarone Works—finally A Normal EKG!

The amiodarone worked, and one week later I saw my doctor and had my first normal EKG since 2013! On August 2, six months post-ablation, I was taken off amiodarone. (I was kept on amiodarone longer than normal, due to the rough time we had getting into rhythm initially.) …Continue reading Roger’s story…

Finally in Sinus Rhythm After 4 Years in Chronic Asymptomatic Atrial Fibrillation

Roger Finnern, personal A-Fib story at A-Fib.com

Roger Finnern

A-Fib Patient Story #94

Finally in Sinus Rhythm After 4 Years in Chronic Asymptomatic Atrial Fibrillation

By Roger Finnern, Tempe, AZ, February 2017

Steve, I had to let you know how thankful I am for all your recommendations and help over the past year. Feel free to use the following on your website or whatever, to give hope to others going through the process.

My Atrial Fibrillation: I was Told to “Just Live with It.”

I contacted you last in December 2015 as I was in chronic A-Fib without symptoms, age 67, and  I had a cardiologist who wanted me to do nothing but take a low dose aspirin and live with it.

My cardiologist wanted me to do nothing [about my A-Fib] but take a low dose aspirin and live with it.

After two years of being in Chronic A-Fib, I went out on my own. With your recommendation, I contacted Dr. Vijay Swarup, Arizona Heart Rhythm Center. I ended up getting a RF ablation in early February 2016.

After Ablation, Back in A-Fib

After my ablation, I was in rhythm only 2 days before it reverted. They performed cardioversion twice before releasing me from the hospital, and each worked only for a minute before reverting back.

Dr. Swarup was a bit miffed as he had tested all ablated points and could not produce any response back to A-fib. He said something to the effect that my heart was highly irritated. They put me on the antiarrhythmic drug amiodarone to convert at home.

Amiodarone Works—Finally in Sinus After 4 Years!

The amiodarone worked, and one week later I saw my doctor and had my first normal EKG since 2013!

One week later I saw my doctor and had my first normal EKG since 2013!

On August 2, six months post-ablation, I was taken off amiodarone. (I was kept on amiodarone longer than normal, due to the rough time we had getting into rhythm initially.)

Being on amiodarone over a long period, I was fortunate that I seemed to not have bad side effects. But I did notice after being off it for a while, that I breathed easier.

Need a Blood Thinner If In Normal Sinus Rhythm?

I was maintaining normal rhythm, so during my October 25, 2016 appointment, I asked Dr. Swarup about getting off the blood thinner Eliquis. .

..he ordered a TEE to check the strength, shape, etc. of my left atrial appendage.

So he ordered a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) to check the strength, shape, etc. of my left atrial appendage (LAA). From that we could also determine if Eliquis or the Watchman occlusion device would otherwise be feasible. [If blood isn’t being pumped out properly from the LAA, there is more risk of clots forming and stroke, even if one is in sinus rhythm.]

My LAA pumping velocity was good. Dr. Swarup has taken me off Eliquis, so things have turned out exceptionally well for me.

I had been taking 1 gram of krill oil with the Eliquis. Now that I am off Eliquis, I have decided to double it for now just in case―strictly a personal choice.

Sleep Apnea Study―Philips DreamWear Mask

During the last nine months [post-ablation] I wore a heart monitor [e.g. halter or event monitor] for a 10 day period.

I also did a sleep study at home―required by Dr. Swarup. They furnish the equipment, and it is fairly easy to do. I turned out to have mild sleep apnea.

I did a sleep study at home and I turned out to have mild sleep apnea.

I have been on a CPAP [Continuous positive airway pressure] machine for the past two months. My episode numbers reduced considerably, so they are happy with the results.

Probably like everyone else, I did not think I could handle the mask, but it has turned out just fine. I highly recommend the DreamWear mask by Philips as it is very comfortable, only one strap, and a pillow type cushion under the nose. I barely know I am wearing a mask.

I have also travelled through airports with the machine in a provided carry-on case and have had no problems whatsoever. It also does not count toward your carry on limit as it is a medical device.

Acupuncture Helps

Throughout my process, I went to a highly experienced acupuncturist about once every week and I will probably continue to do this forever.

This opened up the field of eastern medicine to me, which I now have a healthy respect for.

Steve, she was well aware of the heart points you had in an article on the website way back and had a few others of her own. [See my article: Acupuncture Helps A-Fib: Specific Acupuncture Sites Identified.)

While those points were used by doctors to maintain rhythm after an ablation, I tried them before the ablation just to see if they might work anyway. This opened up the field of eastern medicine to me, which I now have a healthy respect for. I think there is definitely something to this, as it seems to have such a calming effect.

I Feel Fantastic!―But I know This is a Process

Who knows what the future brings, but I feel fantastic and wanted to let you know, Steve, how grateful I am to you for your guidance.

Dr. Swarup says this is a process…we got the rhythm back and now the job is to keep it.

Lessons Learned

Recognize that Tiredness May Be a Symptom of A-Fib: My A-Fib first showed up on a routine physical. Looking back, other than some tiredness, I hadn’t noticed any thing unusual up to that point. Since I stay in good shape, hiking, biking, golf, and some high intensity interval exercises, I had just attributed the tiredness to getting older and just kept on going.

I Waited Longer Than I Should Have: The EKG in April, 2014 which showed that I had A-Fib really shocked me. I did my research, found your website [A-Fib.com], and learned all about magnesium and acupuncture.

In hindsight, I waited longer than I should have. But I had to find out if these natural treatments would straighten out my A-Fib condition without going through an ablation procedure.

Doubted my Cardiologist’s Advice: Also, a cardiologist told me to do nothing since I had no symptoms, though in my mind I started doubting him almost from the beginning.

Get an Ablation Sooner Rather Than Later…But May Not be Easy: My lesson learned is to plan for an ablation sooner than later.

My experience with the ablation and the required cardioversions in a three-day period in the hospital really knocked me for a loop.

And don’t think that this will necessarily be an easy procedure. Everyone is different. My experience with the ablation and the required cardioversions in a three-day period in the hospital really knocked me for a loop. Despite my relatively good physical condition, I definitely had a case of the rubber legs.

I personally recommend to anyone getting an ablation, that you should plan on taking a week or even two off work to really recover before getting back to your normal routine.

Need for Second Ablation? If I ever have to do a second ablation, I will probably go ahead. But I will have to think long and hard about what kind of symptoms I have, as well as how much older I am.

The future is just speculation. As for now, having an ablation was definitely the right decision and turned out great.

Thanks again,
Roger Finnern, Tempe, AZ

Editor’s Comments:

Amiodarone Dangerous Drug: Amiodarone is the strongest and often the most effective antiarrhythmic drug, but it’s also the most toxic. (See my post Amiodarone Effective But Toxic)
Amiodarone is used in difficult cases like Roger’s after his ablation to get his heart in the habit of beating normally, but usually only for a short period of time.
It has to be carefully monitored for bad side effects. Some say amiodarone is so toxic that it shouldn’t be used at all, even in cases like Roger’s. It’s a difficult decision. It worked for Roger, but he did notice that amiodarone affected his lungs and breathing. “After being off of it…I breathed easier.”
“No Symptom” A-Fib May Not be Accurate: Some say that there really is no such thing as Asymptomatic A-Fib, that people just get used to how A-Fib affects them and put up with it. That seems to have been the case with Roger. He writes that now being in normal sinus rhythm feels “fantastic!” and very different than being in Chronic “asymptomatic” A-Fib.
Some would say that because Roger had few noticeable symptoms and was in Chronic A-Fib for some time, that it wasn’t justified to perform a catheter ablation on him. But A-Fib is a progressive disease. See my Editorial: Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No! for a list of damage caused by A-Fib over time.
For Roger, being A-Fib free has radically improved his health and quality of life. Even if you are “asymptomatic,” you may still want to be A-Fib free. You have a right to do so.
Blood Thinners after an Ablation? Some would say that Roger should forever be on blood thinners (especially drug companies) for continued risk of stroke, even if he is A-Fib free.
But research indicates that a successful ablation reduces the risk of stroke to that of a normal person. (See my FAQs A-Fib Ablations: Blood Thinner Post-Ablation?) Blood thinners are not like taking vitamins. They have their own risks, like causing bleeding.
A Very Difficult Case: Someone in Chronic A-Fib for a long time is usually the hardest to ablate and make A-Fib free. In addition to the Pulmonary Veins (PVs), their hearts often have many non-PV triggers which have to be carefully mapped and ablated.
Not all EPs have this level of skill and experience. Roger was fortunate to go to Dr. Vijay Swarup who seems to have made Roger A-Fib-free after only one ablation.
O.R. Operating Room Report: Roger’s OR report showed how Dr. Swarup had to work very hard to find and ablate all of Roger’s non-PV triggers. After isolating Roger’s PVs, Roger was still in atypical atrial flutter, often one of the hardest arrhythmias to find and ablate. Dr. Swarup had to make a Mitral Isthmus ablation line and a Left Atrium roof line.
Then Dr. Swarup found right atrium flutter and made a caviotricuspid isthmus line to block it.
Afterwards, when Dr. Swarup administered isoproterenol to Roger to stimulate any remaining non-PV triggers, he found a tachycardia coming from an unusual spot―the posterior-septal aspect of the tricuspid annulus. (In all the O.R. reports I’ve read, I’ve never heard of an A-Fib signal coming from this spot.) When Dr. Swarup ablated this focal site, Roger terminated into sinus rhythm. That’s the best result an EP can hope for from an ablation. Further administering of Isoproterenol couldn’t produce any other non-PV trigger sites in Roger.
If his A-Fib Returns: Roger knows that he may not be completely out of the woods yet. A second ablation will usually take care of any gaps or hidden triggers and will often be a much easier, faster ablation than the first.
And each day Roger is in normal sinus rhythm and A-Fib free makes his heart healthier, stronger and more apt to beat normally. Not to mention how much better Roger feels both physically and emotionally.

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Reader Tip: Ends Vagal A-Fib Attack with Short Intense Exercise

If your A-Fib occurs at night, after a meal, when resting after exercising, or when you have digestive problems, then you may have ‘Vagally-Mediated’ A-Fib. The Vagus Nerve controls the abdomen and is part of the Parasympathetic Nervous System that tends to slow the heart and dilate blood vessels. Vagal A-Fib is uncommon.

I received an email from ‘A-Fibber in California’ with Vagal A-Fib who’s otherwise healthy and active. He wrote to tell about his success getting out of an A-Fib attack. ‘A-Fibber in California’ writes:

“I have the classic presentation of vagal A-Fib. Good heart, younger age bracket, typically in shape; A-Fib starts at night when I am relaxed and the parasympathetic part of the nervous system is more prominent.

The A-Fibs go away sometime during the day, usually at work when the sympathetic aspect is more prominent. I am an avid cyclist, and in shape, as are many patients with vagal A-Fib. I have a stationary bicycle trainer at home.

Short Maximum Intensity Exercise Stops My A-Fib

The Vagal Nerve - A-Fib.com

Click image to enlarge: The Vagal Nerve

I usually have A-Fib episodes once a week for anywhere from 10 hours to 24 hours.

I wondered if after warming up, if my doing a short bout of maximum intensity exercise, 60 seconds all-out, on my stationary bike, if that would stop an A-Fib episode?

Could the short maximum intensity exercise drive a very strong, sympathetically-mediated, sinoatrial node signal to the atrium? And then would it override the chaotic cardiac Central Nervous System nuclei signals that kept the heart in A-Fib? 

Yes. It worked!

In the morning of each of my past 5 A-Fib episodes, which have taken place in the space of 6 weeks, I got back to sinus rhythm immediately after getting off the bike following the maximum-intensity exercise noted above.

I used a pulse oximeter and stethoscope to confirm. This signal-overriding approach to sinus rhythm has worked so far to end an A-Fib attack.

Theory Why it Didn’t Work One Evening

There was one instance, however, when it did not. That time the A-Fib had begun, as is typical for vagally-mediated A-Fib, in the early part of the night/late evening. The short intensity exercise did not stop the A-Fib at that time. However, when I waited until morning and did it again, I returned to sinus rhythm immediate after stopping.

I wonder. Could attempting to stop the A-Fib when the body’s circadian rhythm places greater emphasis on parasympathetic/vagal tone, make it be more difficult to bring the heart back to sinus rhythm through a sympathetic nervous system activation?

Technique More Effective in the Morning? Short intensity exercise may be more effective in the morning, when the body’s sympathetic system starts to be activated more.

Perhaps my experience may help others who have vagal A-Fibs and can exercise this way.” – A-Fibber in California

Our reader, ‘A-Fibber from California’, also writes that he has scheduled his PV CryoBalloon ablation. Perhaps after his three-month ‘blanking’ period, his vagal A-Fib will be a thing of the past. We’ll follow and report on this progress.

Do You Have a Tip to Share?

Share your tip at A-Fib.comHave some advice to pass on to others with A-Fib? Something that’s working to lessen your A-Fib symptoms, or reduce your frequency or duration of your episodes? Perhaps some ‘Lessons learned the hard way’?

Why not share it with others? Take a few minutes and send me an email about it. Short or long, your tip offers insights that can help others.

Sharing encourages others with A-Fib
to seek their cure!

New Story: Prayer + CryoAblation = A-Fib Free

We first heard from AGL this past summer (My A-Fib Story: The Healing Power of Prayer, #88) Here he shares the rest of the story…up-to-date and expanded.

“In early 2011, I had my first heart episode. I thought I’d sleep it off, so I went home and took a nap. It didn’t go away. I eventually went to the ER where they said my heart rate was 235. They used adenosine which broke the episode, and my heart rate fell to 130s–140s. At this point they thought I had SVT [Supraventricular tachycardia], I couldn’t be sure if it was simply a fluke or not.

After a few more episodes within a year or two, I knew this wasn’t a one-time fluke. I went to see a cardiologist who gave me three choices of proceeding: 1) do nothing 2) take medicine or 3) have an ablation. He didn’t recommend I go with an ablation due to the risks involved.

I began taking 120mg of Cardizem, but that did not help―it simply slowed my heart rate and lowered my blood pressure. I was also taking 81mg of aspirin daily [for risk of stoke].

A-Fib Confounded by Sleep Disturbance

I wasn’t making progress in my A-Fib battle―and I was sleeping terribly. For three months I woke up every night at 2:30 a.m. Then, the rest of the night’s “sleep” was sketchyContinue reading

The Hardest Lessons Learned About Atrial Fibrillaiton

A-Fib Patients' Best Advice Top Ten List - A-Fib.com

Click to see the full poster with Top Ten List.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve read our 10-part series of posts based on ‘The Top 10 List of A-Fib Patients’ Best Advice’ from my book, Beat Your A-Fib.

The list is a consensus of valuable advice from fellow patients who are now free from the burden of Atrial Fibrillation. Click to see the full image.

The Series of Posts

If you missed a post, or simply want to re-read the original posts in this series, just click on the following links:

#1: What’s an EP?
#2: Dump Your Doctor?
#3: Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told About A-Fib
#4: Don’t Just Manage Your A-Fib with Meds. Seek your Cure.
#5: Don’t Let A-Fib Wreak its Havoc! Seek Your Cure ASAP
#6: Be Courageous. Be Aggressive.
#7: Persevere—More Than One Treatment May be Needed
#8: Get Emotional Support for the Stress and Anxiety
#9: Learn All Your Treatment Options Before Making Decisions
#10: Become Your Own Best Patient Advocate

From Chapter 10 of Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure, by Steve S. Ryan, PhD.

Reader With A-Flutter Advises Two Lifestyle Changes

Todd in Minneapolis wrote me that he developed intermittent A-Flutter at age 54. He’s had to learn to live with it as two EPs found too much scar tissue for a successful catheter ablation.

Since then he has arrived at the best outcome for himself by making two lifestyle changes. Today, his symptoms are MUCH reduced. He shares his story with us and some advice:

“I have intermittent A-Flutter (not A-Fib) which manifests in a couple of different patterns.

With catheter ablation ruled out due to too much scar tissue, I have been electronically cardioverted 6 times. (First charge always works). Chemical cardioversion (300mg flecainide) has worked 3 times. In the summer of 2015, I was needing one or the other about every 2-4 months.

I haven’t needed either for 14 months (as of Dec 2016). What has changed? A few things.

I started paying much more attention to staying hydrated. I stopped taking Multaq (I’m off all A-Fib medications). And now my alcohol consumption is only occasional; 1-2 beers or one glass of port. I stopped drinking bourbon a couple of years ago―that was definitely a trigger. 

Today I drink water all day and a little before bed.

My monthly A-Flutter episode. I go out of rhythm every 4 weeks or so. Each time I have not been sufficiently hydrated. I’ll usually drink some water and lie down. But, sometimes I can’t take a break and have to keep working. 

Either way, the episode goes away spontaneously within 1-6 hours. That was not happening before when I paid no attention to hydration

I take only Eliquis now as a precaution.

My best advice: I advise everyone with A-Flutter/A-Fib to stop all alcohol consumption and stay hydrated. At the least, it could have a positive influence on the number of episodes, their severity and length.

It worked for me. I’ve learned to live with A-Flutter and I’m fit and very active.”

Dehydration Can Trigger A-Fib Attack

As Todd has shared, there’s a link between A-Fib episodes and dehydration. To learn more, see our article, How Drinking Too Little Can Trigger Your A-Fib.

Share your tip at A-Fib.com

What’s working for you?

Thank you, Todd, for sharing what’s working for you. What about you and your A-Fib? Do you have something to share? Something that’s helping with your A-Fib symptoms? Email and share with me.


Prayer and CyroAblation: A-Fib Free! But Now Persistent PVCs

AGL's A-Fib Story continues at A-Fib.com

AGL’s A-Fib Story continues

A-Fib Patient Story #93

Prayer and CyroAblation: A-Fib Free! But Now Persistent PVCs

By AGL, December 2016

AGL first shared his story with A-Fib.com readers in August 2016 (My A-Fib Story: The Healing Power of Prayer, #88). Here, he shares the rest of the story…up-to-date and expanded.

In early 2011, I had my first heart episode. I sat down at my desk at work and my heart rate did not slow down. I was sitting there but my heart felt like I was jogging. I thought I’d sleep it off, so I went home and took a nap.

My First A-Fib Episode

It didn’t go away.

I eventually went to the ER where they said my heart rate was 235. They used adenosine which broke the episode, and my heart rate fell to 130s–140s.

They thought I had SVT [Supraventricular tachycardia] since my heart rate was so fast.

At this point they thought I had SVT [Supraventricular tachycardia], since my heart rate was so fast. If it was A-Fib ―it was difficult to determine due to the skewed heart rate graph. Since that was my first episode, I didn’t make any changes [to prevent future episodes]. I couldn’t be sure if it was simply a fluke or not.

Not a One-Time Fluke

But after a few more episodes within a year or two, I knew this wasn’t a one-time fluke.

I went to see a cardiologist who gave me three choices of proceeding: 1) do nothing 2) take medicine or 3) have an ablation. He didn’t recommend I go with an ablation due to risks involved.

I began taking 120mg of Cardizem, but that did not help―it simply slowed my heart rate and lowered by blood pressure. I was also taking 81mg of aspirin daily [for risk of stoke].

A-Fib Confounded by Sleep Disturbance

I wasn’t making progress in my A-Fib battle―and I was sleeping terribly. For three months I woke up every night at 2:30 a.m. Then, the rest of the night’s “sleep” was sketchy. (The sleep disturbance wasn’t caused by my A-Fib.)

After I came across an article online NSAIDs―The Unintended Consequences, 

I told my cardiologist I was finished with taking Cardizem and asked how I could safely stop it.

I learned that NSAIDs [Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirinibuprofen and naproxen] can suppress the release of melatonin―affecting one’s sleep. Once I stopped the baby aspirin, I began sleeping better.

Another decision is made, I told my cardiologist I was finished with taking Cardizem (120mg). I asked how I could safely stop it—did I need to wean off it or just stop cold turkey? He said, with a 120mg dose, cold turkey was fine. After I stopped taking the medicine, I was sleeping well.

A-Fib Episodes Every 4–6 Months

The A-Fib still hadn’t left. I had an episode every four to six months. My heart rate would go up to about 180 bpm and my heart felt like it was a fish trying to push through my chest.

I’d call 911 aach time and they’d come and either hook me up with Cardizem in my kitchen or in the ambulance to slow my heart rate. Then, while at the ER, my A-Fib would convert on its own.

The medicine they gave me never helped my heart rhythm―only heart rate. My heart rhythm would convert from A-Fib to sinus on its own.

My Pastors Pray for My Healing

As I shared before, being a Christian and believing what God says in the Bible about what He can do―I asked my pastors to anoint me with oil and pray over me for healing―as laid out in the book of James. They did that, and I did not have another A-Fib episode for 15 months.

I asked my pastors to anoint me with oil and pray over me for healing―as laid out in the book of James.

God touched me and stayed the A-Fib for that amount of time.

God’s Timing: Considers CryoAblation

After 15 months I had another A-Fib episode. This was around the beginning of 2013. At that point my cardiologist recommended I consider the CryoAblation.

Now that I look back on the timing of things, I think God chose to get me through the 15 months so more advancements could be made on the CryoAblation procedure for it to be safe for me to have it performed. He has His own reasons for sometimes miraculously and permanently healing some―and not permanently healing others.

I read about the CryoAblation procedure―mostly on StopA-Fib.org. The statistics proved good success rates and low risk―besides the obvious of it being invasive―and involving the heart.

Choosing an EP: High-Volume=Lower Complications

I had read that cardiologists/EPs who perform Cryoablations regularly [20 to 50 ablations/year] had increased safety statistically than compared to the ones who performed only a few. Well, it turned out my EP had performed 50 of them before mine. So, that made me feel a lot more comfortable! [See our article: Catheter Ablation: Complications Highest With Low-Volume Doctors]

So, in mid 2013 I had a CryoAblation for my A-Fib. And, I’m happy to say that the ablation was successful. I have not had an episode of A-Fib since!

I’m A-Fib Free! But Now Persistent PVCs

Life has been uneventful heart-wise until recently.

I have had persistent PVCs for a few months now. I basically have them 24/7…sometimes minutes apart sometimes seconds apart―but I don’t have any side effects except an occasional slight flush feeling in the face, but that’s it.

Testing for Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium for Atrial Fibrllation patientsAfter some research online, it seems like magnesium deficiency would be something to investigate first. But the common blood serum test [Red Blood Cell Count (RBC)] to determine magnesium levels is unreliable (your body works to keep your blood serum levels consistent or your heart would stop).

What you want tested is your intracellular level of magnesium―which the Exatest [Energy Dispersive X-Ray Analysis] measures. That test is performed by a lab in California named Intracellular Diagnostics. I had that test done, and my intracellular Mg level was 34 while the lowest number within “normal” is 32. [See: Serum vs Intracellular Magnesium Levels]

But, according to an article on livingwithatrialfibrillation.com, Travis’ doctor says that “normal” can be different per person. So, although I’m within the defined “normal” range…maybe my personal normal is 36 or 38 or something.

Electrolytes in Normal Range—But Not Magnesium

Available at Amazon.com and other retailers.

For what it’s worth, the majority of my other electrolytes within the test were spot on in the middle of the “normal” range―while Mg was not. So, I’m taking that as meaning I may be Mg deficient.

So, I have been taking Natural Rhythm’s Triple Calm Magnesium with three types of chelated magnesium. I’ve read it takes a while to raise your intracellular levels of Mg, so it will take time to see if this works or not.

Also, for what it’s worth―my PVCs seem to be affected by the vagus nerve. Sometimes sitting down seems to magnify the PVCs. They also seem more pronounced after heavier meals sometimes. This is an interesting 2011 article about the vagus nerve and PVCs.

Asks God for Guidance

I’ll continue to try what I can, and ask God for guidance all the while. After all, He made the heart! Too bad that in this fallen world it’s susceptible to malfunctioning at times―partly due to it simply being a fallen world and partly because we don’t follow His ways that are designed to keep us from disease.

I’ll hold onto His promise that says:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NKJV)

AGL, ayatingl@gmail.com

Editor’s Comments:
Magnesium Deficiency: Congratulations to AGL for investigating his magnesium level and going beyond the common blood serum test to measure his intracellular level of magnesium.
If you have A-Fib, it’s safe to assume you are magnesium deficient. Most everyone with A-Fib is. Magnesium has been depleted from the soil by industrial scale farming. It’s hard to get enough magnesium from today’s food.
Consider taking magnesium supplements. It takes about 6 months of taking magnesium supplements to build up healthy Mg levels. For more about A-Fib and Magnesium Deficiency, see our articles:
• Cardiovascular Benefits of Magnesium: Insights for Atrial Fibrillation Patients
• Mineral Deficiencies/Magnesium
• Low Serum Magnesium Linked with Atrial Fibrillation
PVCs and PACs (Extra Beats): PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions) and PACs (Premature Atrial Contractions) are often considered benign. Everybody gets them occasionally, not just people with A-Fib. But A-Fibbers seem to have more problems with extra beats than healthy people. After a successful A-Fib ablation, patients seem to have more extra beats. But, unlike in AGL’s case, they usually diminish over time as the heart heals and gets used to beating properly.
But the sources of PACs/PVCs signals can also be mapped and ablated just like A-Fib sginals. Also, beta blockers and antiarrhythmic drugs may help diminish those extra beats.
Catheter Ablation can make you A-Fib free: The options AGL’s cardiologist gave him in 2011 really weren’t equal.
• “Doing nothing”. This was impractical for AGL considering how badly A-Fib affected him, how often he had to call the paramedics and go to the ER.
• “Take Medications.” AGL tried Cardizem (a Calcium Channel blocker rate control drug), but it didn’t work for him. He might have tried various antiarrhythmic drugs, but their record isn’t good.
• “Ablation, but not recommended.” Though there is risk with any procedure, even AGL’s cardiologist eventually recommended he get an ablation in 2013.
An ablation is a low risk procedure with a high rate of success. Currently it’s the only option that offers hope of fixing one’s A-Fib and becoming A-Fib free.
A-Fib begets A-Fib: Atrial Fibrillation is a progressive disease. The longer you have it, the greater the risk of your A-Fib episodes becoming more frequent and longer. Over time this can lead to fibrosis making the heart stiff, less flexible and weak, reduce pumping efficiency and lead to other heart problems.
Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. And always aim for a Cure! To learn more, read my editorial, Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!

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If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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