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


Reminder About “Holiday Heart”: Binging Alcohol, Marijuana or Rich Foods

Be aware! It’s the time of year when many people end up in a hospital’s emergency room (ER) for treatment of “Holiday Heart Syndrome”, i.e., Atrial Fibrillation triggered by binging—on alcohol, heavy foods and recreational marijuana.

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 a lowering of the levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium in the body through diuresis (increased or excessive production of urine).

Does Alcohol Alone Explain Holiday Heart Syndrome?

Recreational Marjuana and A-Fib at A-Fib.com

Trigger: marijuana use

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 quantities 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.

Resources for this article

Read Steve’s A-Fib Alerts for December 2017

Click image for sample newsletter

Click image for sample newsletter

The A-Fib Alerts December 2017 issue is ready for you and presented in a condensed, easy-to-scan format.

This issue includes reports about AliveCor’s new wearable ECG for your Apple Watch, my fifteen short recaps from the California Heart Rhythm Symposium 2017 and a new FAQ with warnings for heart patients about over-the-counter nasal decongestants…and more! Read it online today.

…Or make it more convenient to read and have our A-Fib Alerts newsletter sent directly to you via email. Subscribe NOW. I hope you will join us. It’s Risk Free! You can unsubscribe at any time! Subscribe TODAY!Amazon.com review of Beat Your A-Fib book at A-Fib.com

Special Signup Bonus: Subscribe and receive discounts codes to SAVE up to 50% off my book, Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to finding Your Cure by Steve S. Ryan, PhD.

My Summary Reports: California Heart Rhythm Symposium 2017

Held at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center in Los Angeles from November 17-18, the California Heart Rhythm Symposium is a regional symposium focused on the latest advances in the field of cardiac arrhythmias (Atrial Fibrillation and Ventricular Arrhythmias).

The one and one-half day Symposium was well attended and featured presentations by recognized leaders in the field. (I only attended the sessions on A-Fib.)  I attended as a journalist representing A-Fib.com.

The following are 15 brief descriptions of the presentations that made the most impression on me.

Recurrence Rates Have Improved

Dr. Greg Michaud from Vanderbilt described how recurrence rates have improved with the use of newer treatments such as contact force sensing catheters and CryoBalloon ablation (and the new Laser balloon). The focus now is where else to ablate besides the Pulmonary Veins (PVs). In his ablations Dr. Michaud tends to ablate or fill in the posterior wall with ablation burns.

“The focus now is where else to ablate besides the Pulmonary Veins (PVs).” Dr. Greg Michaud

A-Fib and Dementia

Dr. Jared Bunch of the Intermountain Heart Institute in Utah shocked the attendees with the statements: one in three of us will develop A-Fib in our lifetime; A-Fib doubles the risk of developing dementia; and Dementia has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

He also pointed out that being on warfarin causes microbleeds in the brain which increase dementia. The younger you are when you develop A-Fib, the more likely you are to develop dementia. (See my article A-Fib Doubles Risk of Dementia.) But a catheter ablation reduces the risk of developing dementia to that of a normal person.

“…when he went into A-Fib, he lost the ability to speak because he was in dementia. Dr. Jared Bunch”

Dr. Bunch gave the striking example of a patient who would speak normally when in sinus rhythm. But when he went into A-Fib, he lost the ability to speak because he was in dementia.

Ablating LAA Increases Ablation Success Rate

Dr. Andrea Natale of the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute in Austin, TX, described his current ablation strategy. Of special note, he showed how ablating the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) increases ablation success rates. During an ablation, he also concentrates on the posterior wall between the PVs. He also pointed out there is currently no standard, agreed-upon protocol for mapping and ablating non-PV triggers.

Contact Force Sensing Catheters & CryoBalloon Ablation

“Contact force sensing catheters have lower recurrence levels.” Dr. Jocob Koruth

Dr. Jocob Koruth of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York described how contact force sensing catheters have lower recurrence levels. But CryoBalloon ablations seem more durable. He mentioned that the FIRM and CardioInsight ECGI vest systems have not been proven.

Editor’s Comments: The FIRM system has received a good deal of negative press and research papers. See Firm Mapping System  and FIRM Research.  But the CardioInsight ECGI vest system, though very new, seems to have great potential.

Flutter As Risky as A-Fib

Dr. Kim Rajappan from Oxford University in Oxford, UK discussed A-Fib and A-Flutter. Both carry the same risks for patients. Rate control is harder for Flutter. Most EPs would do a Flutter ablation even if the patient were not in A-Fib at the same time.

Editor’s Comments: Flutter can be considered as a milder or more organized form of A-Fib. It may feel slightly better than A-Fib and be better tolerated. But it’s still as dangerous as A-Fib.

Importance of Isolating the LAA

“… the importance of measuring flow velocity out of the LAA after isolating it.” Dr. Luigi Di Biase

Dr. Luigi Di Biase of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York echoed Dr. Natale in stressing the importance of the LAA (Left Atrial Appendage) in A-Fib. But he also pointed out the importance of measuring flow velocity out of the LAA after isolating it. If LAA flow velocity is low, it’s necessary to keep a patient on anticoagulants for life or remove the LAA such as by using the lariat device. … Continue reading this report…->

New FAQ: Will EECP Heart Therapy Help my Circulation?

“I’ve heard about an out-patient heart therapy that improves circulation called EECP (Enhanced External Counterpulsation). Would it help me with my A-Fib?”

The goal of Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) therapy is to improve the flow of healthy, oxygenated blood to the heart. It works by opening or forming small blood vessels called collaterals which create natural bypasses around blocked arteries.

It’s FDA cleared, non-invasive, requires no medication and has no recovery period. It improves circulation and decreases inflammation.

Ischemic means a restriction in blood supply to tissues caused by constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels.

Improve Blood Pressure and Circulation

EECP has been used with patients suffering from ischemic heart diseases (i.e. angina and heart failure).

In addition, if you have high blood pressure, EECP can decrease arterial stiffness and hardening of the arteries. It also pumps blood into bone marrow and pushes stem cells to secrete into the circulatory system.

My Experience with EECP

I recently had an EECP session at Global Cardio Care–West Los Angeles, CA. I can testify that EECP therapy is very powerful and invigorating.

During and after my session. I spoke with Sara Soulati, the CEO of Global Cardio Care, Inc. who is a pioneer in EECP since 1996. (She also helped with research for this article.)

In my case, they found that my arteries were very flexible, so I didn’t get as much benefit as someone with clogged arteries. I can testify from personal experience that EECP feels very effective. It seems like a naturally occurring bypass.

(Global Cardio Care, Inc. has two locations in Los Angeles and offers a free session, see their website).

What Happens During EECP Therapy

EECP therapy session: patient with compression cuffs on lower limbs at A-Fib.com

EECP therapy session: patient with compression cuffs on lower limbs

During an EECP therapy session, you lay on an EECP bed with a pulse-oximetry device on your finger and hooked up to a 12-lead ECG. Heavy-duty air compression pressure cuffs (similar to blood pressure cuffs) are wrapped around each calf, thigh, and the buttocks. The ECG signal synchronizes the sequential squeezing of the cuffs to the rhythm of the patient’s heartbeat.

When the heart is at rest, the blood pressure cuffs squeeze the blood from the lower legs and circulate it throughout the entire arterial system. When the heart pumps, the cuffs deflate rapidly.

EECP therapy increases the blood flow and oxygen back to the heart, reducing the work that the heart has to do. It also improves circulation and strengthens the cardiopulmonary system. A typical session lasts around 1 hour; one course of EECP is usually 35 hours.

EECP: How It Effects Your Body

Effect of EECP therapy at A-Fib.com

Effect of course of EECP therapy: new arteries for blood to flow through

This increased and powerful circulation to the arteries helps develop “collaterals”―new arteries for blood to flow through. Hormones and vasodilators (nerves that cause widening of blood vessels) are released.

Within the arteries, nitric oxide and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF stimulates the formation of blood vessels) are secreted which help the process of collateralization (forming a side branch of a blood vessel). This improves arterial stiffness, increases circulation, and decreases inflammation.

EECP and A-Fib Patients

When I interviewed Sara Soulati of Global Cardio Care, Inc. she shared her experiences with Atrial Fibrillation patients seeking EECP.  (Global Cardio is where I had my EECP session.)  She recalled how her first A-Fib client came from a referral from Dr. Julian Whitaker (Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, CA). Her insights and advice come after conducting EECP on more than 60 A-Fib patients.

“About 20% of our clients have had their A-Fib converted back into normal sinus rhythm.” Sara Soulati of Global Cardio Care, Inc.

Criteria for Best Results: She learned that in order to conduct EECP on someone with A-Fib, one of the criteria for a successful outcome is to have controlled A-Fib as opposed to unstable A-Fib.

Uncontrolled A-Fib has a wider range of heart rates, for example 40 to 150 beats per minute which makes the heart rate very irregular. Whereas controlled A-Fib has a narrower range of heartbeat (50-70 beats/minute).

This allows EECP to work properly, since EECP is triggered by the resting phase of the heartbeat.

EECP Results for A-Fib Patients: Sara Soulati hypothesizes that EECP stimulates electrical conduction of the SA Node to start to conduct and to normalize electrical conduction.

Sara Soulati, Global Cardio Care, Inc

Sara Soulati

EECP works for those with A-Fib as though it were passive exercise. It lowers heart rate and blood pressure while increasing circulation. About results with A-Fib patients, she writes:

 “Since the earliest days when I started doing EECP, we have treated more than 60 A-Fib clients. Not every single person has returned to normal sinus rhythm. I have seen the conversion from A-Fib to normal sinus rhythm first-hand while watching the EKG heart monitor during EECP therapy. About 20% of our clients have had their A-Fib converted back into normal sinus rhythm.”

For those who don’t return to sinus, their heart rate often becomes more controlled and medications can be decreased.

Still frame from Renew Group Private Limited EECP video

Still frame from Renew Group Private Limited EECP video

More About EECP Therapy

Is EECP Therapy Safe?

EECP is FDA cleared for the following conditions: angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, cardiogenic shock, and acute myocardial infarction.

Medicare (and many private insurers) will reimburse for several courses of EECP if you meet the criteria.

Other diseases or conditions mentioned have been studied in clinical trials. Clinical research shows there is, in fact, improvement in these disease types with EECP treatment.

Medicare will reimburse for several courses of EECP if you meet the criteria. Most private insurance companies have coverage policies similar to Medicare.

We advise you to talk to your cardiologist or EP before proceeding.

Where can I Find Centers Offering EECP Therapy?

There are nearly 1,000 academic medical facilities, physician practices and stand-alone centers offering EECP throughout the world and in the U.S. See “Locate EECP®Therapy Centers” at the VasoMedical EECP Therapy website.

Read More About EECP Therapy

The Bottom Line for A-Fib Patients

A course of EECP therapy may offer a way to improve the flow of healthy, oxygenated blood to your heart. As Sara Soulati of Global Cardio Care, Inc. reports, with EECP therapy, about 20% of her A-Fib clients have converted back into normal sinus rhythm.

The criteria: if your A-Fib is controlled with a narrower range of heartbeat (50-70 beats/minute), or if you have paroxysmal (occasional) A-Fib, you may want to look into a course of EECP therapy. It can improve cardiac function and possibly decrease the need for A-Fib meds.

(If you do try EECP therapy, let me know about your experience! Email me.)

Resources for this Article

A-Fib Begets A-Fib: The Longer You Have A-Fib, the Greater the Risk


“My advice to other patients: Know that paroxysmal A-Fib becomes chronic. Drugs only work for so long. Get with a great EP or A-Fib clinic and find your cure.”

Joan Schneider, A-Fib free after Catheter Ablation


The Longer You Have A-Fib, the Greater the Risk

‘A-Fib begets A-Fib.’ The longer you have A-Fib, the greater the risk of your A-Fib episodes becoming more frequent and longer, often leading to continuous (Chronic) A-Fib. (However, some people never progress to more serious A-Fib stages.)

Don’t listen to doctors who want to just control your symptoms with drugs. Leaving patients in A-Fib overworks the heart, leads to fibrosis and increases the risk of stroke. The abnormal rhythm in your atria causes electrical changes and enlarges your atria (called remodeling) making it work harder and harder over time.

Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Any treatment plan for A-Fib must try to prevent or stop remodeling and fibrosis.

To learn more, read my editorial, Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!

Educate Yourself—and Always Aim for a Cure!

New from AliveCor: Wearable ECG for Your Apple Watch

For A-Fib patients, we now have the promise of personal monitoring to detect atrial fibrillation.

After working through a tedious FDA approval process, AliveCor’s KardiaBand™ for Apple Watch® is finally available (they’ve been promoting it since before October 2016). KardiaBand is similar in function to AliveCor’s Kardia Mobile, a small device which interfaces with smart phones to display and record ECGs.

The KardiaBand is the first of its kind, FDA-cleared, clinical grade wearable ECG. It replaces your original Apple Watch wristband and provides access to a 30-second ECG anytime, anywhere.

By placing your thumb on your wristwatch band, the KardiaBand for Apple Watch offers a medical grade single lead ECG recording. (The ECG recordings are equivalent in quality to those made by the Kardia Mobile.) You can record unlimited ECGs and email the readings to anyone.

Kardia’s SmartRhythm Monitoring System

Your Apple Watch’s built-in heart rate sensor and accelerometer, when combined with the KardiaBand, uses Alivecor’s SmartRhythm™ monitoring with artificial intelligence models for tracking heart rate and activity data.

SmartRhythm monitoring involves a deep neural network that runs directly on the Apple Watch, constantly acquiring data from the watch. When the network sees a pattern of heart rate and activity that it does not expect, it notifies you to take an ECG using the KardiaBand sensor.

Or, any time you like, you can discretely take a 30-second ECG. The KardiaBand with SmartRhythm monitoring can instantly recognize Normal Sinus Rhythm, and check for Possible Atrial Fibrillation (AF). To learn more about how it works, go to Alivecor.com/technology.

The Price of an ECG on Your Wrist

KardiaBand requires an Apple Watch and Kardia app. The KardiaBand is $199.00 and ships with two band lengths to assure a proper fit. Includes free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee. It’s available from the Alivecor website.

The gold standard for diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (and other cardiac arrhythmias or abnormalities) is an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Spoiler Alert—KardiaGuard Premium Membership Required: The KardiaBand product for Apple Watch REQUIRES KardiaGuard membership at $9.99/month or $99/year (20% savings). You do get a 30-day free trial that begins from the time you create an account with the Kardia App. (Note: There’s no membership required to use the Kardia Monitor.)

Buyer’s Regret: With a 30-day money back guarantee on the KardiaBand and free 30-day membership trial, if not happy with your purchase, I suppose you can return it all and owe nothing.

Online Customer Reviews

I found the most helpful online review is by Anthony Pearson, MD, at The Skeptical Cardiologist website (theskepticalcardiologist.com). See his article: Alivecor’s Kardia band is now available: Mobile ECG on your Apple Watch.

Customer reviews of the AliveCor KardiaBand on Amazon.com are split; take a look.

Two Ways You Might Use an AliveCor Kardia

Travis Von Slooten

Travis Von Slooten

How might you use the Kardia to help with your A-Fib? Travis Van Slooten, publisher of Livingwithatrialfibrillation.com, wrote about using his AliveCor Kardia Mobile (the Kardia version used with a smart phone or tablet). In his review he shares:

AliveCor Kardia Monitor for cell phone or tablet at A-Fib.com

AliveCor Kardia Monitor for smart phone or tablet

“When I would go into afib, I was highly symptomatic. However, I always turned to my Kardia Mobile monitor to confirm I was indeed in afib before I would take my medication (Flecainide) as a pill-in-the-pocket approach to treating my atrial fibrillation.

This is a very powerful antiarrhythmic drug, especially at the doses I was taking (300mg), so I didn’t want to take it unless I was absolutely sure I was in afib.

I would then use the AliveCor monitor afterwards to confirm I was back in NSR. … It was great to have the monitor to confirm when the episode was over.

Works for PVC/PACs too: Since his successful ablation back in March 2015, Travis hasn’t needed to use the Kardia Monitor for A-Fib specifically, but now uses it extensively in his battle with PVCs and PACs. He confirms his PVC/PACs and rules out A-Fib. He also uses the data to keep a historical record of the number of his PVC/PACs. To read Travis’ full review, see our article: AliveCor Kardia Update: Review by Travis Van Slooten.

Caution: Health-Related Anxiety

In an AliveCor KardioBand review on CardioBrief.org, James Stein (University of Wisconsin) offered the following insight:

“…Many people with expendable income have health-related anxiety, so this product enables their desire to spend money and achieve a temporary but false piece of mind, since random monitoring has not been proven to prevent any adverse events or improve health outcomes…”

Before You Buy: Determine Your Goals

If you decide to invest in an AliveCor KardiaBand and Apple Watch, first determine your goals. Be realistic. It’s not a replacement for your doctor’s Event Monitor. And the ECGs won’t help you avoid an A-Fib-related stroke.

Using the KardiaBand and Apple Watch to email ECGs may help you communicate better with your doctor. It may help to know if you are or are not having A-Fib attack. It may help you remain calm and give you peace of mind.

Remember: A KardiaBand on an Apple Watch is just another tool in your A-Fib “toolbox” that can help you cope with your A-Fib.

VIDEO: Here’s a short video that shows you the basics of using the KardiaBand with your Apple Watch. Posted by AliveCor, Inc. Length: 51 seconds.

‘Daddy Needs His Life Back’ and Other A-Fib Stories of Hope and Courage


“My life is back. I no longer live in the A-Fib shadow and no longer take the drugs. all is now quiet. I no longer have to be content with less…Life is good.”

Robert Dell, A-Fib free since 2002.


Robert shares his story:

“I was the master scenic artist for the ABC-TV soap opera “One Life To Live” in New York City… Like many of you, I  was also athletic and also lived with daily stress, but I did not know what A-Fib was until I was 47… 

Illness was not new to me as I had been spitting up blood from a lung condition called bronchiectasis coupled with chronic bronchitis for over fifteen years. 

Specialists informed me that I had to live with it, although I might drown in my own blood while asleep if the rare chance of sudden vein rupture occurred. This made me somewhat reluctant to use Coumadin or aspirin….” 

Personal A-Fib stories at A-Fib.com

Over 90 personal stories

Continuing reading Robert’s A-Fib story: “Daddy is always tired.” Daddy needed his life back.

Over 90 Personal Stories of Hope and Courage: Many A-Fib.com readers have shared their personal experiences with A-Fib (starting with Steve Ryan’s story). Told in the first-person, each author tells their story to offer you hope, to encourage you and to bolster your determination to seek a life free of A-Fib. Learn more at: Personal A-Fib Stories of Hope.

Seeking Support: She Emailed Me After Her MD Said “It’s All In Your Mind”

I was reminded recently about an email I received from a woman in England. She described her horrendous A-Fib symptoms—palpitations, extreme fluttering, breathlessness and “absolute extreme fatigue.” 

While her symptoms were troubling, the next part of her email really shocked me!

Her doctor said her breathlessness and exhaustion had nothing to do with her A-Fib. That these symptoms were all in her head. That she was exaggerating.

As an A-Fib community we think we’ve come a long way in our understanding of Atrial Fibrillation and how to treat it. Many of us have—but not everyone.

And what’s most surprising about this story is that her doctor was a woman! (It’s usually males who tell females that’s its all in their mind.) Go figure!?

A-Fib doctor with stethoscope

“It’s All In Your Mind” her MD said.

Though the author of the email probably knew this already, I wrote back and explained to her:

”The symptoms you describe usually come along with Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib). Fluttering, palpitations, feeling like your heart is going to jump out of your chest or that there are mice rolling bowling balls inside your heart―these are feelings most of us have who suffer from A-Fib.
You experience breathlessness and extreme fatigue because your heart isn’t pumping properly. Normally the upper part of your heart (the atria) squeeze blood down into the lower part (the ventricles) which then pump the blood to the rest of your body. But in A-Fib the upper part of your heart doesn’t squeeze down but instead quivers, vibrates, fibrillates. You lose 15%-30% of your normal pumping volume.
If you could look inside your heart, it would look like a plate of shaking Jell-O. Of course you feel breathlessness, fatigue, dizziness, etc.!”

You are not alone. A-Fib.comPatient’s Want More Than Just the Facts

A-Fib patients need more than just an up-to-date, informed health provider. When people email me, they’re often not just seeking the facts about A-Fib. They’re also seeking support, understanding and empathy.

They need to know that they’re not alone in trying to deal with A-Fib.

Our A-Fib Support Volunteers

Your health provider many not offer the support you need to cope with your A-Fib.

I often tell them about our A-Fib Support Volunteers who are just an email away. We are blessed to have many generous people who have volunteered to help others get through their A-Fib ordeal. They’re fellow A-Fib patients or former patients who are there to listen and offer their support to others suffering from A-Fib. (Visit our A-Fib Support Volunteers page for more info and list of volunteers from around the world.)

Will You Share This Message?

Won’t you share this message with someone who is also suffering from A-Fib? Reassure them, and let them know they are not alone. (And refer them to our  A-Fib Support Volunteers page for more info.)

A few of our many A-Fib.com Support Volunteers

A few of our many A-Fib.com Support Volunteers

Does Your Family Know How to Help You During an A-Fib Episode?

Keep Calm and Follow Your A-Ffib Action Plan poster at A-Fib.com


“Keep calm and follow your A-Fib Action Plan.”

Steve S. Ryan, PhD, A-Fib.com.


For your family’s peace of mind, you need to create an ‘A-Fib Action Plan’.

During an A-Fib attack, an A-Fib Action Plan with specific steps is reassuring and helps everyone stay calm. Your family will be confident they’re supporting you in taking the right action at the right time.

To learn how to create your action plan, see: Why & How to Create Your ‘A-Fib Episode Action Plan’.

 

Warnings on Decongestants: Which are Safe for A-Fib Patients

I’ve answered a question from Ryan Farhat who asked an important question about taking over-the-counter decongestants.

“There are warnings for heart patients on some packages of decongestants. As someone with A-Fib, which are safe for me to take?”

When you have a stuffed up nose from a cold or allergies, a decongestant can cut down on the fluid in the lining of your nose. That relieves swollen nasal passages and congestion. (In general, an antihistamine doesn’t help.)

Though it can relieve symptoms, a decongestant doesn’t speed your recovery.

Decongestants and Heart Disease

Most decongestants carry a warning which says something like, “Do not use this product if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, or diabetes.”

The Problem: When taking a decongestant, heart rate and blood pressure go up, the heart beats stronger, blood vessels constrict in nasal passages reducing fluid build-up. For A-Fib patients this can trigger or induce their Atrial Fibrillation.

The main active ingredient in many decongestants (e.g. Sudafed Congestion) is pseudoephedrine, a stimulant. It is well known for shrinking swollen nasal mucous membranes.

A Safe Substitute? A substitute for pseudoephedrine is phenylephrine. In general, phenylephrine is milder than pseudoephedrine and also less effective in treating nasal congestion. As with other decongestants, it causes the constriction of blood vessels and increases blood pressure.

There is anecdotal evidence that products with phenylephrine (e.g. Sudafed PE, Dimetapp and Triaminic) might be less of a trigger for A-Fib than pseudoephedrine (e.g. Sudafed).

Many medicines combine an antihistamine and decongestant, like Allegra-D, Benadryl Allergy Plus Sinus, Claritin-D, and Zyrtec-D. The “D” means it has a decongestant.

What About Antihistamines?

Antihistamines reduce the effects of histamine in the body which can produce sneezing, runny nose, etc. Though they can lessen your symptoms, some can aggravate a heart condition, or be dangerous when mixed with blood pressure drugs and certain heart medicines.

Compared to decongestants, antihistamines are often better tolerated by people with A-Fib.

Examples are Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Coricidin HBP (chlorpheniramine maleate) but it also contains acetaminophen and a cough suppressant. Note: “Claritin-D” also has a decongestant.

Bottom Line

I don’t know of any decongestants that are safe to take when you have A-Fib. One possible exception are those with the active ingredient phenylephrine (e.g. Sudafed PE, Dimetapp and Triaminic.).

Antihistamines and decongestants can give much-needed relief for a runny or congested nose. But A-Fib patients should pay attention to the warnings for heart patients.

Best Advice: Consult your cardiologist or EP for the best option for your stuffy nose or allergies. And ask about interactions with your other heart medications (especially if you have high blood pressure).

Be Courageous When Seeking Your A-Fib Cure


“When seeking your A-Fib cure: Be courageous! Be assertive! Get the care that you deserve. Do NOT go with the flow.”

From Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure


As you progress through your treatment plan, continue to educate yourself. Read, surf the internet, participate in online discussions. Become an equal partner with your doctors or healthcare team.

Personal Stories of Hope, Courage and Lessons Learned: 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.

 

Carrying Your Medical ID: A Free Wallet Card or Wearable Technology

Print free wallet card from allfreeprintable.com

(Updated 1-4-18) When you have A-Fib and you’re taking a blood thinner or other medications, you may want to carry your medical information. There are many ways to carry your info these days, on a printed card, or  with an array of accessories with USB storage, etc.

Print Your Free Online Medical ID Wallet Card

To help you make your medical ID, we have three Free online sources for printing your own wallet cards (updated 1-14-18).

• Printable Emergency Medical ID Card (in PDF format) from AllFreePrintable.com
• Print Your Own Emergency Medical I.D. Card from AllenLawrence.com
• Emergency Contact Card (in PDF format) from American Red Cross

Use the PDF form online to enter your information. Then, print, trim, fold and add to your wallet or purse. Or print the blank form and fill-in by hand).

A Few Tips

• Laminate your wallet card to prolong its use (an office supply store can help you).
• Why not print a card for each member of your family?
• If you also wear a medic alert bracelet, inscribe it with the message “See wallet card”.

Additional Ways to Carry Your Emergency Medical Alert ID Information

Wearable technology: There are many new styles of Medic Alert IDs bracelets (latex-free) and necklace pendants both with preloaded software and made with different materials like waterproof foam, leather and stainless steel.

Care USB Medical History Bracelet – latex free

USB key from Stat Alert

USB key from Stat Alert

USB credit card-size by ER Card

Credit card-size USB by ER Card

Money clip from Universal Medical Data

Money clip from Universal Medical Data

You can also carry your emergency medical ID information on USB-equipped personal devices like a key chain fob and credit-card size data wallet card (above).

Paper-based? Don’t carry a wallet? Consider a Money clip with a compartment to slide in your emergency contact info (right).

Or, if you carry a paper-based day planner or calendar, add the same information to your address book.

What Emergency Medical Info Should You Carry?

For much more information about what and how to carry your emergency medical information, see our article, Your Portable Medical Information Kit.

On Pinterest: Browse Pics of Over 50 Celebs with A-Fib

Mario Lemieux

Atrial Fibrillation doesn’t discriminate. It hits sport professionals (from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL), track & field competitors and Olympic champions; politicians and public officials to actors, performers and musicians.

Browse our Pinterest board of over 50 celebs who have dealt with A-Fib. You’ll be amazed at the many personalities and celebrities with A-Fib. For example:

Billie Jean King

MARIO LEMIEUX, Canadian American NHL/AHL Hockey Hall of Fame. Retired from hockey in 2006 because of Atrial Fibrillation.

Gene Simmons

BILLIE JEAN KING, Tennis legend (Wimbledon champ 20 times) and advocate for gender equality. A-Fib came after playing tennis with a friend. “My heart was beating, I thought it was going to come out of my chest.” 

GENE SIMMONS, Musician, bass player for KISS, was cardioverted on an episode of his reality show, “Family Jewels.” 

Ellen Degeneres

ELLEN DEGENERES, Talk show host, comedian. Ellen acknowledged her A-Fib in an episode of her show with Howie Mandel (who also has A-Fib).

Browse our Pinterest board of over 50 celebs who have dealt with A-Fib. Go to “Celebs With A-Fib“.  Or visit all our A-Fib-related Pinterest boards. #afib.

She Calls it a Miracle: No More Meds and Restored Quality of Life


“Do not take ‘this is as good as it gets’ as an answer. Do your own research about what’s possible and take a co-leadership role with your doctor.”

Michele Straube, A-Fib free after 30 years


‘I Want to Cure My A-Fib, Not Just Manage It.’

Keep in Mind: For many A-Fib patients, their best outcome came about only when they told their doctor, ‘I want to cure my A-Fib, not just manage it.’ (And, if needed, they also changed doctors.)

How to Find the Best Doctor for Youor

To be cured of your A-Fib, you may need to ‘fire’ your current doctor. Seek an electrophysiologist (EP), a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm problems (the electrical functions of the heart).

Choose a doctor who will partner with you to create a treatment plan—a path to finding your cure or best outcome. To learn how, read Finding the Right Doctor for You and Your A-Fib.

Michele’s Personal A-Fib Story: To learn the importance of finding the right doctor, read Michele Straube’s personal A-Fib experience: Cured after 30 years in A-Fib.

Run―don’t walk―to the best EP you can afford.

Will You Help Us Serve A-Fib Patients and Their Families?

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., I want to share this lovely message from an A-Fib.com reader:

Will You Help Us Serve A-Fib Patients and Their Families?

Since 2002, Patti and I have personally funded A-Fib.com and donated our time to research and write all content. Since we want A-Fib.com to remain independent and ad-free (i.e. no third-party advertising like Google ads), our long-term goal is to make A-Fib.com a self-sustaining site. Here’s how you can help.

How We Generate Ad-Free Revenues

First, from time-to-time we receive donations from grateful readers (look for our PayPal link in the right sidebar).

A-Fib.com portal link to Amazon.comOur second source of revenue comes each time you use our A-Fib.com Amazon.com link to shop online (Just use our link and shop as usual). We earn a small commission on each sale (at no additional cost to you). Bookmark this A-Fib.com portal link to Amazon.com. Use it every time.

During the Upcoming Holiday and Gift-Giving Seasons

I ask you to support A-Fib.com in two ways:

Consider a one-time or recurring donation through our PayPal link (see our sidebar) or mail us a check.
Use our A-Fib.com Amazon.com link every time you shop online.

Won’t you help keep A-Fib.com ad-free and independent?

Prepare for Your Doctor Visits: Two FREE Appointment Worksheets

AHA “A-Fib: Partnering in Your Treatment” worksheet at A-Fib.com

AHA “A-Fib: Partnering in Your Treatment” worksheet

After your initial Atrial Fibrillation diagnosis, use these free appointment worksheets to help you prepare when visiting a cardiologist for the first time and to record your doctor’s answers.

AHA FREE Worksheet: Partnerning in Your Treatment

Review the worksheet “A-Fib: Partnering in Your Treatment” on the American Heart Association website. These are the most common questions A-Fib patients ask a doctor after first being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. Take with you to your appointment and make notes in the spaces provided.

Download the PDF worksheet: “A-Fib: Partnering in Your Treatment”. Once the PDF download is complete, SAVE to your hard drive. Click and open it. You can then print, or make copies later when needed.

A-Fib.com’s FREE Worksheet: 10 Questions to Ask Your New Doctor

A-Fib.com Questions for Doctors Worksheet at A-Fib.com

A-Fib.com Questions for Doctors Worksheet

Looking for a new cardiologist or electrophysiologist? Here’s a worksheet with a list of ten interview questions to ask each doctor and an area to note their responses. Download and print a copy of this worksheet for each doctor you talk to (separate browser window will open).

AFTER your interviews: learn what their answers indicate. Go to the our page, Choosing the Right Doctor: Questions You’ve Got to Ask (And What the Answers Mean), and compare each doctor’s answers to the list of interpretation of answers.

Which Doctor is Right For You?

Choosing your doctor at A-Fib.com

Choosing your doctor

Don’t rely on a single online source when researching and selecting doctors. Be cautious of all doctor informational listings you find on web sites (yes, including this one).

To help you find and choose the right doctor, see our page: Finding the Right Doctor for You and Your Treatment Goals.

Don’t Let Your Doctor Leave You in A-Fib


Don’t live in A-Fib!

“Treating patients with drugs but leaving them in A-Fib, overworks the heart, leads to fibrosis and increases the risk of stroke and dementia. Seek your Cure.”


Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!
The goal of today’s A-Fib treatment guidelines is to get A-Fib patients back into normal sinus rhythm (NSR). Unless too feeble, there’s no good reason to just leave someone in A-Fib. Read more.

Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Learn your treatment options. And always aim for a Cure!

Learn more about all treatments for Atrial Fibrillation.

 

Missing Anything? We Make it Easy to Request Your Medical Records

When it comes time to see a new doctor or specialist, you’ll want to supply them with a copy of all your relevant A-Fib related medical records. If you are missing copies of some of your files, you may need to request files from current and former physicians and medical centers. 

HIPAA stands for the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Submit a Written Request

In the US, you have a right to copies of your records, under the HIPAA legislation. For those outside the U.S., learn how to request your records in CanadaUK, Australia or Europe (EU).

Three Ways to Request Your Records

To start the process, you need to submit a written request to each doctor or medical practice. For those in the U.S., here are three ways to do it.

Your Personal Medical Summary

How to request your medical records

1. You’ll find the instructions for requesting records for each provider in their Notice of Privacy Practices’—you signed and received a copy of this notice on your first visit.

It’s also posted, by law, in the waiting room where patients may see it. It should provide instructions for requesting records as well as contact information for asking questions or filing complaints. Follow the instructions to request your records.

2. Or, if visiting the medical office, ask for an ‘Authorization for Release of Health Information’ form. You can complete and submit the authorization form in person or take it home.

Many medical practices post the ‘Authorization for Release of Health Information’ form on their website for download.

3. You can also write your own ‘Request Your Medical Records’ letter (see more below). The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse offers a sample letter template.

‘Request Your Medical Records’ Sample Letter

To help you compose your own letter asking for your medical records, use the sample letter provided by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit patients advocacy group.

Download the free PDF file (hosted on our website) and print or save the PDF file to your hard drive.

Using their sample letter as a template, replace the sample patient information with your own and create a letter for each doctor or practice. Then print and hand-deliver your request to your doctor’s office or mail or fax it. The doctor’s office is required to respond in a specific number of days.

To learn how long they have to respond and what they are allowed to charge you for copies, see our article, Your Right to Your Medical Records”.

Where Do You Organize Your A-Fib Records?

Keep your medical records in a binder or folder. at A-Fib.comWe strongly encourage you to get in the habit of storing all your A-Fib-related research and documents in one place. Don’t leave your doctor’s office, medical center or hospital without a copy of every test or procedure they perform. If the test result isn’t immediately available, have them mail it to you.

As you search for your Atrial Fibrillation cure, organize the information you are collecting. Start with a notebook and a three-ring binder or a file folder. To learn more, see my article, Why You Need an A-Fib Notebook and 3-Ring Binder

The Longer You Have A-Fib, the Greater the Risk


“A-Fib begets A-Fib. Don’t delay. It’s important to treat your A-Fib as soon as practical.” 

From Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure.


The longer you have A-Fib, the greater the risk of your A-Fib episodes becoming more frequent and longer, often leading to continuous (Chronic) A-Fib. (However, some people never progress to more serious A-Fib stages.) Unless too feeble, there’s no good reason to just leave someone in A-Fib.

Leaving patients in A-Fib overworks the heart, leads to fibrosis and increases the risk of stroke.

Any treatment plan for A-Fib must try to prevent or stop remodeling and fibrosis. Educate Yourself. And always aim for a Cure!

To learn more, see Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!

Beat the A-Fib Mental Games: Try an Anxiety Thoughts Log

Up to 40% of patients say their ‘quality of life’ has suffered due to their Atrial Fibrillation. For many that manifests as stress, fear and anxiety. It’s my opinion, electrophysiologists (EPs) generally don’t focus on, or effectively help patients deal with the distress that A-Fib often creates.

In his personal A-Fib story, Anthony Bladon shared his techniques for dealing with the mental stress of his A-Fib. He wrote, “The constant lurking fear that A-Fib may spontaneously return, is insidious. I absolutely needed to develop coping mechanisms.”

Anthony’s Two Anxiety-Busting Techniques

Anthony Blandon photo

Anthony Blandon

First, he used a 17-minute audio relaxation exercise 1 on a daily basis (or more often) for months. He then went on to describe his second technique:

“In addition I developed an “anxiety thoughts log,” making myself write down word-for-word what the anxious thought was, as well as noting the physical event that seemed to trigger it.

By confronting my most extreme fears very explicitly (i.e., ‘Is this a TIA or A-Fib?’ ‘I’m afraid of a stroke, I might die or be disabled.’ I can’t contemplate a third ablation!’), it became easier to re-state and contextualize them in a more reasonable frame of mind, thereby reducing my anxiety.

And lastly, he offer this advise:

If fears of A-Fib prey on your mind, I encourage you to seek out the help of a professional psychologist, as I did. After a few sessions of consultation, and with the continued use of tools like these, I was fully able to cope.”

To read all of Anthony Bladon’s A-Fib story, go to: Two CryoAblations, Difficult Recovery Period, Dealing with the Fear that A-Fib May Return.

Coping with Fear and Anxiety; Overview of Atrial Fibrillation

Coping ideas

Beat the Mental Stress of A-Fib

Fight your fears! Ambush your anxiety! Seek your freedom from anxiety and improve the quality of your life.

You may also want to read my article, Seven Ways to Cope with the Fear and Anxiety of Atrial Fibrillation.

A-Fib may be in your heart—
But it doesn’t have to be in your head. 

Footnote Citations    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Still available: You can listen to the free 17 minute audio relaxation exercise on the Dr. Dean Given website (or download the free mp3) at http://drdeangiven.com/?page_id=76.

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