I returned Saturday night from the annual AF Symposium held at the Hyatt Regency, Orlando, FL. The mood of the three-day atrial fibrillation conference seemed to be somewhat somber.
The coming Trump presidency seemed to cast a shadow of discouragement and even fear. Occasional discussions would reflect on the profound changes expected, especially about Obamacare.
The AF Symposium brings together the world’s leading medical scientists, researchers and cardiac electrophysiologists (EP) to share the most recent advances in the treatment of atrial fibrillation.
Hot Topic: Left Atrial Appendage
The most talked about topic at this year’s AF Symposium was the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA). This represents a major change in the way doctors now see the importance of the LAA and the LAA’s role in atrial fibrillation.
(For A-Fib patients, this is a most welcome change. All too many doctors still consider the LAA of little importance. For example, when doing an ablation, all too many EPs never look at the LAA to see if it is producing non-PV triggers.) …Continue reading my first report…
I’m in Orlando, FL, for several days attending the AF Symposium 2017.
The annual AF Symposium (formerly called the Boston AF Symposium) is an intensive and highly focused three-day scientific forum that brings together the world’s leading medical scientists, researchers and cardiologists to share the most recent advances in the treatment of atrial fibrillation.
I attend in order to offer A-Fib.com readers the most up-to-date A-Fib research findings and developments that may impact the treatment choices of patients who are seeking their A-Fib cure (or best outcome).
Look for my reports and brief summaries in the coming weeks and months.
We hear it every day on TV, ads about ‘living with Atrial Fibrillation’. In today’s media, the message is about how to ‘manage’ your A-Fib. You’re advised to ‘just take our anticoagulant’ and you’ll live happily ever after.
But recent research (and common sense) indicates otherwise.
Mega Research Analysis of Your Additional Risks
Researchers at Oxford University, Oxford, UK and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA, conducted a systematic review and analysis of 104 different studies involving nearly 10 million people, of which, over a half-million had A-Fib.
They found that Atrial Fibrillation is associated with not just stroke, but also with:
• Heart Disease
• Heart Failure
• Kidney Disease
• Sudden Death
• Death from All Causes
Heart failure: The strongest association was with heart failure, which was five times more likely in people with A-Fib. Because your heart isn’t pumping properly, it’s not surprising that A-Fib leads to heart disease, heart failure and sudden death.
Kidney disease: A surprising association is that A-Fib is tied to kidney disease and peripheral arterial disease, probably because of poor circulation due to A-Fib.
Death from all Causes: This isn’t such a surprising finding as A-Fib affects the whole body. A-Fib damages your heart, brain and other organs. It reduces the heart’s pumping capacity by about 15%-30% which may cause weakness, fatigue, dizziness, fainting spells, swelling of the legs, and shortness of breath.
Patients with A-Fib, even if they don’t have a stroke or heart failure, are more likely to die from other causes compared with people in normal sinus rhythm (NSR).
Note: this study didn’t examine the known link between dementia and A-Fib. See Leaving Patients in A-Fib Doubles Risk of Dementia—The Case for Catheter Ablation
Don’t be Misled by Pharmaceutical Ads
For patients with A-Fib, it isn’t enough to simply take an anticoagulant!
We need to worry not just about stroke, but also about the risks and potential damage of A-Fib to our overall health.
Contrary to today’s media, your goal shouldn’t be to just ‘manage your A-Fib’. It’s a Pollyanna fantasy to just ‘Take a pill (anticoagulant) and live happily ever after’.
That misconceoption is propagated by drug manufacturers who want you to stay an A-Fib patient and thus a customer for life.
Don’t Just Live with A-Fib
Don’t Settle. Seek your A-Fib cure. Your goal should be to get your heart beating once again in normal sinus rhythm (NSR). We can’t say it enough…
Do not settle for a lifetime on meds. Seek your A-Fib cure.
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 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…Continue reading…
Sharing the gift of Hope is a wonderful way to start this new year. Inspire others to seek their A-Fib cure…
Pass on this heart to encourage others with Atrial Fibrillation.
You don’t have to live a life on medications. Seek your cure. For encouragement, browse our library of over 90 first-person stories by patients, many now A-Fib-free. Go to our Personal A-Fib Stories of Hope.
You can be free of the burden of Atrial Fibrillation.
Graphic by Patti J. Ryan, A-Fib.com. #afib
‘Tis the season when many people end up in a hospital’s emergency room (ER) for treatment of “Holiday Heart Syndrome”, i.e., Atrial Fibrillation triggered by alcohol binging.
Overindulging in alcohol (six or more drinks) can cause surges in the body’s adrenalin, rises in the levels of free fatty acids, alterations of how sodium moves in and out of the heart cells, and lowering the levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium in the body through diuresis.
Does Alcohol Alone Explain Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Excessive alcohol is not the only culprit. Recreational use of marijuana can compound the risk as well. Other factors include the nicotine effect in smokers (active and passive), large quantiles of rich food, and even cold weather. In addition, fireplace fires and bonfires can release ultra-fine particles in the air from burnt materials and can be bad for the heart.
New Year’s Eve Party Time: Be Aware
As you celebrate, encourage others to avoid heavy alcohol consumption and try to minimize eating large quantities of food at one time. Look for the symptoms of “holiday heart” among your relatives (hereditary A-Fib) and friends. Anyone with any heart symptoms should go to the ER. If they’re lucky, it will be a one time event.
Share the Cheer of the Season
Finally, if you know someone who is depressed, alone, or isolated during the holiday season, reach out and cheer them up, it may be the best thing you do for their heart as well as yours.
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.
Former A-Fib patient, Paul V. O’Connell of Baltimore, MD, wrote about A-Fib.com publisher, Steve Ryan:
“Steve’s probably the world’s best informed patient advocate when it comes to understanding atrial fibrillation and its treatment.
Most important, Steve is not owned by the AMA or Big Pharma—so he is not beholden to anyone except his readers.”
A-Fib.com is Independent and Unbiased
From our start in 2002, Steve has maintained an independent and unbiased viewpoint. To assure our integrity, A-Fib.com is deliberately not affiliated with any medical school, device manufacturer, pharmaceutical company, HMO, or medical practice.
Drug Companies Influence Most Health Websites
Did you know…the drug and medical device industries operate or influence almost every health/heart related web site on the Internet?
For example, the drug company Eli Lilly is a “partner” with WebMD (WebMD Health Corp.) which include the websites, Medscape.com, MedicineNet, eMedicine.com, eMedicineHealth, RxList, theHeart.org, and Drugs.com.
Consider for a moment how that may affect the information you read on their websites. Who can you trust?
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Not many healthcare websites or patient education sites can make these same claims. A-Fib.com is your independent source of unbiased information
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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 scared 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 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 summer 2015, I was needing one or 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 years ago―that was definitely a trigger.
Today I drink water all day and a little before bed.
My monthly A-Flitter 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.
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.
Even better—have our A-Fib Alerts sent directly to you via email. Subscribe NOW.
We’ve posted a new FAQ and answer based on an email I received from a fellow with a very challenging case of Long-standing Persistent Atrial Fibrillation:
“I am 69 years old, in permanent A-Fib for 15 years, but non-symptomatic. My left atrium is over 55mm and several cardioversions have failed. My EP won’t even try a catheter ablation. I exercise regularly and have met some self-imposed extreme goals. What more can I do?
My answer: As you may know, being in permanent (long-standing persistent) Atrial Fibrillation can cause other long term problems like fibrosis, increased risks of heart failure and dementia. So you are wise to be concerned.
I’m not surprised your electrophysiologist (EP) is reluctant about performing a catheter ablation. Being asymptomatic with 15 years of long-standing persistent A-Fib and a Left Atrium diameter of 55mm, most EPs wouldn’t recommend or perform a catheter ablation on you.
Drug Therapy Option: Tikosyn
Have you tried the newer antiarrhythmic drug Tikosyn (generic name dofetilide)?
Tikosyn was designed for cases like yours. It’s a Class 1A drug that works by blocking the activity of certain electrical signals in the heart that can cause an irregular heartbeat. …Read more of my answer…
One of our most visited pages on A-Fib.com is our report: Guide to DIY Heart Rate Monitors (HRMs) & Handheld ECG Monitors. Patti and I just completed an update, adding new content and revising others. The report is a starting point for those making a purchase. (There are many good products, so we pared down the list for you.)
Not to be Confused with Optical Fitness Wristbands
The HRM sensors/monitors in this article work by being in contact with the skin. Don’t confuse these with fitness bands like Fitbit that use an optical sensor to shine a light on your skin illuminating your capillaries to measure your pulse.
Our Recommendations of Heart Rate Monitors (HRM)
In the first part, we have updated our recommendations of Heart Rate Monitors (HRM):
♥ Wrist watch monitors with chest sensor bands
♥ Bluetooth app-enabeled sensors for smartphones
♥ Wearable technology with wireless sensors.
Consumer, DIY or ‘Sport’ Heart Rate Monitors (HRM) are designed for runners and other recreational athletes but can be useful to A-Fib patients who want to monitor their heart rate and pulse when exercising or when performing physically demanding activities (i.e., mowing the lawn, climbing stairs, loading and unloading equipment, etc.).
Affordable Handheld Real-Time ECG monitors
The second part is about the emerging new category of affordable Handheld Real-time ECG monitors that let you capture and share your ECGs. We’ve update the reviews for the following and added one new monitor:
♥ Kardia Heart Monitor by AliveCor
♥ The HeartCheck™ PEN handheld ECG device from CardioComm Solutions
♥ PC-80B ECG Monitor (Heal Force or Creative Easy)
♥ BodiMetrics Performance Monitor NEW REVIEW
♥ Handheld ECG Monitor CMS-80A (FaceLake or Contec Medical Systems)
Continue reading…go to our updated report: Guide to DIY Heart Rate Monitors (HRMs) & Handheld ECG Monitors.
“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).
The more people like their doctors, the healthier they tend to be. This is what researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found in a review study where they examined 13 research reports on this subject.
Being the “Best in the Field” Isn’t Enough
Even if a doctor(s) is the best in their field and an expert in your condition, that may not help you if you don’t communicate well with them and don’t relate to them. If we don’t like our doctors, we’re less likely to listen to them.
Some doctors (particularly those from overseas) often communicate poorly, or talk in “medicalize” and are nearly incomprehensible. Other doctors come from a medical school with a tradition of aloofness and keeping a distance from patients (with women in particular).
Relationship-Based Strategies Improve Patients’ Health
This mega-study review looked at doctors who were trained in “relationship-based strategies” such as making eye contact, listening well, and helping patients set goals. The results: these strategies significantly improved their patients’ health compared to control groups. Their patients achieved lower blood pressure, increased their weight loss, reduced pain and improved glucose management.
If You Don’t Like Your Doctor, Look For a New One!
It’s intuitive, isn’t it? But now a review of studies backs it up. If you like, trust and respect your doctor(s), you’re more likely to accept and follow their advice. Developing a good relationship helps you feel comfortable asking questions and getting feedback in a give-and-take environment.
If you don’t have this rapport with your current doctor(s), it’s worth looking elsewhere for a new doctor―even if they are “the best” in their field.
In the article, Know When it’s Time to Fire your Doctor, CNN.com Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen discusses five ways to know when it’s time to think about leaving your doctor, and the best way to do it. The highlights are:
1. When your doctor doesn’t like it when you ask questions
2. When your doctor doesn’t listen to you
3. If your doctor can’t explain your illness to you in terms you understand
4. If you feel bad when you leave your doctor’s office
5. If you feel your doctor just doesn’t like you — or if you don’t like him or her
Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Your Doctor
Changing doctors can be scary. According to Robin DiMatteo, a researcher at the University of California at Riverside who’s studied doctor-patient communication. “”I really think it’s a fear of the unknown. But if the doctor isn’t supporting your healing or health, you should go.”
To learn more, read our page: How to find the right doctor for you and your treatment goals.
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