“For many A-Fib patients, their best outcome came about only when they told their doctors, ‘I want to cure my A-Fib, not just manage it’. “
Steve S. Ryan, former A-Fib patient, from his book, Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure. A-Fib-free since 1998.
Don’t Live With A-Fib: Seek Your Cure
The goal of today’s A-Fib treatment guidelines is to get A-Fib patients back into normal sinus rhythm (NSR).
Treatment options includes antiarrhythmic drugs, chemical and electrocardioversion, catheter ablation and mini-maze surgery.
Unless too feeble, there’s no good reason to just leave someone in A-Fib.
Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Learn your treatment options. And always aim for a Cure!
We’ve updated our article: Sleep Apnea: Home Testing with WatchPAT Device and the Philips Respironics.
There are several FDA-approved sleep study devices you can use in the comfort of your own bedroom to determine if you have sleep apnea. And it’s convenient (especially if being away from home overnight is problematic).
Everyone with A-Fib should be tested for sleep apnea. It’s now available at a fraction of the cost of an in-lab sleep study ($250-$300 vs. $1100-$2,000).
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Sleep Apnea is common amount Atrial Fibrillation
At least 43% of patients with Atrial Fibrillation suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) as well.
Sleep Apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
It is now established that there’s a correlation between Sleep Apnea and A-Fib.
Last December, we posted: Got A-Fib? Add ICE to Your Cell Phone. (ICE stands for “In case of emergency” entries in your cell phone address book.)
Started by a paramedic in Britain, ICE entries allow first responders (i.e., paramedics, firefighters) to contact the cell phone owner’s next of kin to obtain important medical information.
What’s the Problem with ICE Entries?
Many modern ‘smart’ cell phones require a passcode to unlock and access the owner’s address book. This prevents medical staff from getting to your emergency contact info.
Solution: Carry a written copy, too. Write down your medical contact information and include in your wallet, medical ID bracelet or necklace. A good place to start is a wallet card as most of us usually have our wallets handy.
Print a Custom ICE Card
To help you make your ICE or medical ID, we have two Free online sources for printing your own wallet cards.
Both offer an online form (with nothing to install or download) to customize with your information. Then, print, trim, fold and add to your wallet or purse. (Note: none of your personal information is stored on their websites.)
Other Options: Key Ring or Gym Bag Tag
If you want a key ring tag, ICE Gear offers a personalized laminated tag at a very reasonable price.
Similar in size to your gym or grocery loyalty tags, they can be attached to car keys, shoe laces (for runners), zippers, gym bags and more.
Made with durable, high-visibility materials. For $9.99 you get 4 tags. Shipping is free.
Related reading: ‘What Emergency Medical Info Should You Carry With You?‘
Updated November, 10, 2016
If you take several supplements (like I do), you may wonder:
“Should I take them at the same time each day? Or should I spread doses throughout the day? Should I take with meals? Or on an empty stomach?”
The best answer may depend on whether you are taking medication, on the specific supplement and/or on your personal life style.
Start with the ‘Suggested Use’
Read the supplement label. Some are fairly specific, i.e., “with or without food”, or “with food” or “on an empty stomach”; or specific time (morning or bedtime) or in divided dosages. Make notes for each supplement. Download and use this FREE form to help you keep track of everything.
Do you Have Other Medical Conditions?
If you have diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, first talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Combining supplements with prescription medications, can produce unexpected or life-threatening results.
They may offer advice specific to the combinations of your meds and supplements.
Do Some Reading, Take Some Notes
The best time to take a specific vitamin or supplement may depend on the specific supplement. Do some reading on each at the library or at a reputable website or two. Make notes of the information you find. A few examples:
• Taking a single dose multi-vitamin? It’s best to take it in the morning when nutrients are depleted and with or near breakfast so it’s broken down, then digested with the food.
• Vitamin D is best absorbed after your biggest meal, usually dinner, averaging 56 percent greater boost than those who take it without food.
• Calcium supplement, don’t take along with a multivitamin containing iron. The calcium may interfere with the iron’s absorption.
• Magnesium may be best taken in the evening, since Magnesium may support sound sleep.
Healthy Directions, Dr. David Williams
On the website Healthy Directions, Dr. David Williams offers advice about the best times to take vitamins. He lists specific vitamins and supplements and organized them into three groups, those that should be taken before meals, with meals, or in-between meals. See his article for specifics, The Best Times to Take Your Vitamins.
[Healthy Directions offers advanced nutritional supplements and guidance from highly respected integrative and alternative health doctors including Julian Whitaker, MD, Dr. David Williams, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, MD and others.]
My favorite independent research sites
For reliable, unbiased research and information on specific vitamins and supplements, we recommend these three sites (in order or preference). None of the three sell supplements (or anything else). They just offer information on vitamins, herbs, natural products and supplements.
1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute/Integrative Medicine: “About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products”
2. Drugs.com: ‘MedFacts Natural Products Professional database’
3. The ‘Dietary Supplement Label Database’ at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Adjust for Your Life Style
You may need to adjust your supplement taking to accommodate work or school demands, family schedules, etc. For example, if you work the swing shift, your “morning” dose may need to be 1 pm, and your ‘evening’ doze may need to be at 2 am.
Or, if you often skip meals during your work day, taking equally divided doses may become erratic. So, it may be better taking your doses before you go to work.
Bottom Line: Try to be Consistent
For optimum benefit, it may take some effort to work up your supplement schedule. But you don’t have to obsess about it. Since these are ‘natural’ substances (vs. prescription drugs), you usually don’t have to be overly careful about when you take them. What’s important is do try to be consistent from day to day.
After you work out your schedule, consider using a vitamin/supplement organizer. Check out My Search for the Best 7-Day Medicine/Vitamin Organizer.
For more answers to your questions about mineral deficiencies, see our: FAQ Minerals & Supplements
For more on where to research specific vitamins and supplements see, FAQ Minerals Deficiencies: Reliable Research.
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For Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, we are introducing a little character called “That Demon A-Fib-Zebub“. He’s that little voice that’s whispers in your ear “You don’t look sick! A-Fib’s not that bad. You can live with it”.
When That Demon A-Fib-Zebub pops up, it time to remember that A-Fib is not benign, but a progressive disease. It’s not a “nuisance arrhythmia” as some doctors consider it.
And you should not just “take your meds and get used to it” (as one doctor told his patient). Who wants this demon on their shoulder?
From time to time, That Demon A-Fib-Zebub will float into our infographics and posts.
Don’t Settle for a Lifetime on Meds: Aim for A Cure
A-Fib is definitely curable. (I was cured of my A-Fib in 1998). If you have A-Fib, no matter how long you’ve had it, you should aim for a complete and permanent cure.
Don’t listen to A-Fib-Zebub. Instead, seek encouragement from other patients. Select from our list of over 80 Personal A-Fib stories of Hope to learn how others are dealing with this demon we call Atrial Fibrillation.
Do not learn to live with Atrial Fibrillation.
Seek Your Cure!
I’m proud to announce the launch of The A-Fib.com Advisory Board.
Since the start of A-Fib.com in 2002, many cardiac electrophysiologists (EP) and surgeons have given me invaluable advice and support. They have helped make our website the ‘go-to’ destination for over 350,000 visitors a year. In fact, for three years running, we’ve been recognized by Healthline.com as a top A-Fib blog.
It’s a great blessing to be able to tap into the knowledge and experience of these talented professionals when writing on a difficult A-Fib subject or to get help for an A-Fib.com reader with a difficult case.
From all regions of the U.S., and from France, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia, these doctors may not always agree with all my positions, but they try to point me in the right direction.
The A-Fib.com Advisory Board is my way to publicly thank them and acknowledge their continued support. We invite readers to browse the names of members and their affiliations.
This is the month we focus on reaching those who may have Atrial Fibrillation and don’t know it.
An estimated 30%−50% of those affected with Atrial Fibrillation are unaware they have it—often only learning about their A-Fib during a routine medical exam.
Of untreated patients, 35% will suffer a stroke. Half of all A-Fib-related strokes are major and disabling.
To spread the word about Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib.com offers a new infographic to educate and inform the public about this healthcare issue.
See the full infographic here. (Then Share it, Pin it, Download it.)
by Steve S. Ryan, PhD
When you develop A-Fib, you have to think seriously about changing your exercising routine. In general, you want to do whatever you can to stay active and exercise normally. Review these articles to help you determine the right choices for you.
1. Exercising During an Episode: “When I’m having A-Fib symptoms, should I go ahead and exercise as I would normally?
2. Returning to “Normal” Exercise Level: “I love to exercise and I’m having a catheter ablation. Can I return to what’s ‘normal’ exercise for me?“
3. Exercise to Improve Circulation: “Is there any way I can improve my circulation, without having to undergo a Catheter Ablation or Surgery?”
Do Whatever You Can to Stay Active
Having Atrial Fibrillation doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising, but you have to be smart about it. (In some people, light exercise helps get them out of an A-Fib attack. In others, like me when I had A-Fib, exercise makes it worse.) Do whatever you can to stay active even though you have A-Fib.
By Patti J. Ryan
Do you struggle with the daily mix of supplements and prescriptions you take? Some are small, but some are horse-pill size! Some you take in the AM, others you take in the PM.
Trying to find the right pill organizer has been a trial for me. Most often the compartments are too small and hard to open.
I Found the Best Organizer
After years of trial and effort, I’ve FINALLY found a great pill organizer―the EZY Dose AM/PM 7-Day Push Button organizer.
This 7-day organizer has two rows for AM/PM dosages with large letters for the days of the week.
Compartments are extra large―about 1 1/8″ wide by 1 3/8″ deep. That’s large enough for those ‘horse pill’ size tablets. The compartments have rounded bottoms― making it effortless to get the pills out. And the cherry on top? Push button lids―easy open and easy close.
Do you carry your meds with you? The EZY Dose is also compact and portable for carrying in your purse or jacket pocket.
Note: If you take pills four times a day, there’s an EZY Dose for you too: 7-Day XL Medtime Planner
Use our Link to Amazon.com and Support A-Fib.com
For my needs, I bought two 7-Day EZY Dose organizers from Amazon.com, so I’m set for two weeks at fill up time.
Use our Amazon.com portal link: Here’s a link to get two EZY Dose AM/PM 7-Day Push Button organizers and Free Amazon Prime shipping. (Purchases through our portal link helps support A-Fib.com―at no extra cost to you!)
The EZY Dose AM/PM 7-Day organizer is also available from other retail and online sources.
I’m traveling for a few days, so this post has to be short, but not necessarily brief! Did you know I’ve listed my Best A-Fib News posts from 2015 on Pinterest? Each year Patti and I write about 150 posts, so we selected the best ‘evergreen’ posts for you.
To browse through our hand-picked selections, just click the Pinterest logo and click on a few picks. You may find something you have missed or want to reread.
Just For Fun
What do Mother Theresa, Ellen Degeneres and Vice President Dick Cheney have in common? If you guessed Atrial Fibrillation, you’re right! For fun, look at our board with 50 Celebs with A-Fib!
By Steve S. Ryan, PhD
Many A-Fib patients want to monitor their heart rate when exercising or when performing physically demanding activities, i.e., mowing the lawn, loading equipment, etc. (I wore one when I had A-Fib.) A consumer ‘DIY” monitor or Handheld ECG monitor may meet this need.
My Top 5 Picks for DIY Heart Rate & Handheld ECG Monitors
To get you started, here are my Top 5 Picks. These products are available from many online sources, but to make it easy for you and to read my other recommendations, see my ‘Wish List’ on Amazon.com. (Note: Use our Amazon portal link, and your purchases help support A-Fib.com.)
Used by runners and other athletes, this basic model has a clear, LARGE number display of your heart rate (as number).
The included Polar FT2 chest strap picks up the electrical signals from your heart and transmits to the wrist watch. Simple one-button start. Includes FT2 Getting Started Guide.
Also look at Polar FT1. Polar is my brand of choice, but there are many good brands.
A more advanced Polar model. Water resistant. Many built-in fitness features in addition to displaying your heart rate as a number (not a tracing). The included H1 heart rate sensor chest strap sends a continuous heart rate signal to the wrist watch.
Also look at Polar FT4; in colors.
Bluetooth-compatible heart rate sensor chest strap; Pair it with an app on your iPhone, iPad and Android device (instead of the Polar wrist watch).
For ECG tracings. Attaches to most smartphones and works with tablets. Records and displays an actual medical-grade ECG in just 30 seconds that you can share with your doctor. Shows whether your heart rhythm is normal or if atrial fibrillation is ‘detected’.
For ECG tracings & more. Stand alone unit captures and displays actual ECG and other vitals in less than 20 seconds. Palm-size, slips into your pocket or purse. Wireless, syncs with your Android or iPhone. More than just heart activity, set goals with daily reminders, etc.
Many A-Fib patients also suffer with sleep apnea. An easy way to check is to measure your blood’s oxygen level. A reading of 90% or lower means you should talk to your doctor, you may need a sleep study.
Learn More About DIY Heart Rate Monitors
For more information about these monitors, see my Guide to DIY Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG Monitors (Part I).
To learn how they work, see DIY Heart Rate Monitors: How They Work For A-Fib Patients (Part II).
The harmful chemical compound, BPA, may have been removed from many plastic bottles and food packaging, but “BPA-free” products may not be much safer.
The BPA chemical replacements, BPS and BPF, can also leach into food and beverages and may have the same impact on the human body (heart problems, as well as cancer, infertility and other health issues).
BPA Replacement Linked to Arrhythmias in Female Rats
A study published in the Journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Seltenrich) shows that the chemical compound BPS has nearly identical impacts on the cardiovascular system of rats as those previously reported for BPA. Researchers reported a link between BPS and irregular heartbeat. More research is needed.
What to Do: It Doesn’t Hurt To Be Cautious
To reduce your risk of arrhythmia from BPS/BPF, decrease or eliminate your use of plastic storage containers for food or drink.
Drink from steel or glass containers, not plastic ones.
Don’t microwave your food in plastic containers. The heat from the microwave can separate BPA-like compounds from plastic containers, making them easier to ingest. If you must use plastic containers, avoid the microwave.
Ideally, just store food in ceramic, glass or stainless steel containers in the first place.
To read more, see the April 2015 TIME magazine article by Justin Worland, Why ‘BPA-Free’ May Be Meaningless.
by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, updated September 18, 2016
Few people in the U.S. today are shocked or scandalized that the Drug and Device Industry (DDI) basically bribes doctors and hospitals to prescribe their drugs or use their equipment. It’s so commonly done that we take it for granted.
In the U.S., in general, it isn’t considered unethical or immoral for doctors to accept payments or favors from the Drug and Device Industry (DDI). Nor is it illegal.
But soon U.S. patients will be able to simply type in our doctor’s name in the Open Payments Database and see how much they are being paid by the DDI and what conflicts of interest they have.
Thanks to the Sunshine Act (a provision of the U.S. 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), the DDI must report when they make a payment to a doctor for meals, promotional speaking or other activities.
Influencing Doctors’ Prescriptions for the Price of a Meal
In a recent JAMA Internal Medicine report (DeJong, C., June 2016), the authors compared meal payments to doctors with the drugs they prescribed to Medicare patients.
Even doctors who accepted only one free meal were more likely to prescribe the brand name drug.
Not surprisingly, they found that physicians who accept free meals from a drug company are more likely to prescribe that company’s brand name drugs rather than cheaper (and usually more proven) generic drugs. This study only focused on physicians who received meals.
Even doctors who accepted only one free meal were more likely to prescribe the brand name drug. Doctors who accepted four or more meals were far more likely to prescribe brand name drugs than doctors who accepted no meals. Furthermore, doctors who accepted more expensive meals prescribed more brand name drugs.
In another related JAMA Internal Medicine report (Yeh, JS, June 2016), researchers found similar evidence that industry payments to physicians are associated with higher rates of prescribing brand-name statins.
Steer Clear of Conflicts of Interest
The publication, Bottom Line Personal, offered words of wisdom on this subject.
“Studies have found that when there is a conflict of interest, it is almost impossible for even well-meaning people to see things objectively.”
Dr. Dan Ariely of Duke University described how, if a doctor must choose between two procedures, they are likely to pick the one that has the better outcome for their bottom line.
“That doesn’t mean the doctor is unethical…it just means he is human. We truly seem to not realize how corrosive conflicts of interest are to honesty and objectivity.”
He advocates that we steer clear of people and organizations with conflicts of interest “because it does not appear to be possible to overcome conflicts of interest.”
Conflicts of Interest: Be Suspicious of Doctors
Doctors are only human. If a drug rep gets them great tickets to a sporting event, for example, of course they will be inclined to favor that rep’s drug. Whenever you visit a health/heart website ask yourself: “Who owns this site?” and “What is their agenda?”
Whenever you visit a health/heart website ask yourself: “Who owns this site?” and “What is their agenda?”
But be suspicious if your doctor tells you:
• to take an expensive new drug
• to just “live with your A-Fib”
• insists that catheter ablation is too dangerous or unproven
• that A-Fib can’t be cured
• that you have to take drugs for the rest of your life
If this happens to you, RUN and get a second opinion (and even a third opinion).
Conflicts of Interest: Be Suspicious of Health/Heart Websites
When I attend talks at most A-Fib conferences, the first slide a presenter shows is often a list of their Conflicts of Interest.
But this is not required of websites! Health/Heart websites are not required to be transparent and reveal their conflicts of interest.
Whenever you visit a health/heart website ask yourself: “Who owns this site?” and “What is their agenda?” (Hint: Check their list of “sponsors” and follow the money!)
Drug Industry Owns or Influences Most Heart/Health Web sites
The drug and device industry owns, operates or influences almost every health/heart related web site on the Internet!
The fact is most health/heart web sites are supported by drug companies who donate most of their funding.
For example, did you know that the drug company Ely Lilly partially owns and operates WebMD, the Heart.org, Medscape.com, eMedicine.com and many other health web sites?
The fact is that most health/heart web sites are supported by drug companies who donate most of their funding. Consider how that may affect the information they put on their web sites―they’re not going to bite the hand that feeds them.
Be Suspicious of A-Fib Info on the Internet
In our crazy world, you can’t afford to trust anything you read on the Internet.
At one time I tried to keep track of all the mis-information found on various A-Fib web sites. When we’d find something wrong, we would write the site. I don’t think we’ve ever received a reply. Finally, we gave up. (See my video: Buyer Beware of Misleading or Inaccurate A-Fib Information.)
Many web sites put out biased or mis-information. Be skeptical. You can tell if someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Truth will out. If you feel uncomfortable or that something is wrong with a site, it probably is. When you find a good site, the truth will jump out at you.
In today’s world, you have to do your own due diligence. You know what makes sense and what doesn’t.
For more, see my article: EP’s Million Dollar Club—Are Payments to Doctors Buying Influence?
The 2016 Get in Rhythm, Stay in Rhythm™ Atrial Fibrillation Patient Conference will be September 16-18 at the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel in Dallas, TX. For further info and to register, visit the Get in Rhythm, Stay in Rhythm conference website.
Hosted by Mellanie True Hills, Founder and CEO of StopAfib.org, the Get in Rhythm, Stay in Rhythm™ Atrial Fibrillation Patient Conference is designed to give you the tools and information you need to take care of yourself, and to communicate effectively with your doctors and other healthcare professionals. Confirmed topics are listed in the “Agenda”. For presenters, go to the Get in Rhythm, Stay in Rhythm website and hover over each faculty photo.
Costs: Admission is $127–$157 (Early Bird rate) Special hotel rate is $119/night (normally up to $289/night). This special rate is good from 3 days before until 3 days after the conference (so you can vacation in Dallas before/after the conference).
Event Sponsors: The conference is made possible with support from industry sponsors including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen, Boston Scientific and Medtronic. Co-sponsors include Heart Rhythm Society, MyAFibExperience.org and Health eHeart. Promotional partners include Alliance for Aging Research, American Sleep Apnea Association, WomenHeart.org and National Blood Clot Alliance.