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


anxiety

Get Support: A-Fib Wreaks Havoc with Your Head as Well as Your Heart

Anxiety, fear, worry, confusion, frustration and depression, and at times, anger. Most A-Fib patients deal with one or more of these feelings. Beware: research indicates that “psychological distress” worsens the severity of A-Fib symptoms.

Advice About Stress from Patients (and a Spouse) Now Free from the Burden of A-Fib

Jay Teresi, Atlanta, GA, USA. cured after having A-Fib for over ten years:

Jay T.

“Of the entire experience, anxiety has been the greatest challenge. Don’t beat yourself up if you deal with this. Be honest with the doctors about it and get help.
And help your family to understand as they are your greatest support system.”
Kelly Teresi, wife of Jay Teresi, about coping with her husband’s A-Fib:

Kelley T.

“This disease is so far beyond what a non-A-Fib person can comprehend—many times I found myself frustrated, not understanding what was going on with Jay’s thoughts and heart. Jay’s A-Fib and the associated anxiety has left its imprint on our lives.”

Max Jussila, Shanghai, China, about the emotional impact of his A-Fib:

Max J.

“I have never been mentally so incapable…even the simplest work-related problems seemed impossible for me to handle, let alone solve.
I was only 52 years old…but mentally I was reduced to a six–year-old child with constant tantrums.”

Joe Mirretti, Gurnee, IL, a 62-Year old cyclist, about the personal A-Fib stories on A-Fib.com:

Joe M.

“Like everyone has said in their A-Fib stories, A-Fib does such a job on your head. Every time you feel something, it scares you like you’re going back into A-Fib. That’s been a mental battle.
That’s why reading those patient stories [on A-Fib.com] help.”

A-Fib Doesn’t Have to be in Your Head as Well

Don’t be ashamed to admit how A-Fib makes you feel (especially if you’re a guy). Your psyche is just as important as your physical heart. Just acknowledging you have some or all of these symptoms is a step in the right direction.

PODCAST: 15 Ways to Manage the Fear & Anxiety of Atrial FibrillationTune in to learn ways to cope. Listen as Steve Ryan and Travis Van Slooten, publisher of LivingWithAtrialFibrillation.com discuss ways to help you with the emotional component of A-Fib. (See show notes for the list of 15 tips.)

Acknowledge the Stress and Anxiety.
Seek Emotional Support. 


From The Top 10 List of A-Fib Patients’ Best Advice’ , a consensus of valuable advice from fellow Atrial Fibrillation patients; Chapter 12, Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure by Steve S. Ryan, PhD.

Go to Top 10 List of A-Fib Patients’ Best Advice
Please, share the advice ♥ 

Calling All A-Fib Patients: Participate in On-Line Research Survey on Anxiety and A-Fib

Many of us know how debilitating the emotional component of A-Fib can be and the impact on our quality of life. We often say that Atrial Fibrillation wreaks havoc with our heads as well as with our hearts.

This is what doctoral student Sevinc E. Uzumcu is investigating—the anxiety and depression often associated with Atrial Fibrillation. She has asked all our A-Fib.com readers to help with her research.

This survey is part of her doctoral applied research project at A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences. She is seeking all A-Fib patients to answer her online questionnaire whether or not suffering with anxiety or depression.

This aspect of Atrial Fibrillation is seldom investigated.

Give Just 7 Minutes for A-Fib Research

We strongly encourage all A-Fib patients to take this online survey. I answered the questions, and it only takes about 7 minutes. Your responses are anonymous.

To participate, go to the survey “Invitation”.

Submissions will be accepted through September 30, 2018. As part of her doctoral studies, she hopes to publish the results of her research.

A-Fib Doctors Need to Treat the Emotional Effects

The A-Fib patient community really needs this research study and needs to share the findings with doctors treating A-Fib patients. Raising doctors’ awareness of the psychological aspects may encourage them to develop treatment protocols.

Kudos to doctoral student Sevinc E. Uzumcu for undertaking this research.

(In all my years of attending A-Fib conferences, I’ve never seen doctors discuss this topic. But I did! As a patient advocate, I talked on this topic to 200 cardiologists in Zurich, Switzerland at MAM 2016.)

For dealing with the anxiety associated with A-Fib, see my article: Coping With A-Fib Anxiety and the PODCAST: 15 Ways to Manage the Fear & Anxiety of Atrial Fibrillation.

The Survey Title:The Association Between Atrial Fibrillation and Anxiety

Click here to go the survey Invitation (link is at the bottom of the page).

PODCAST: 15 Ways to Manage the Fear & Anxiety of Atrial Fibrillation

Open in a new window: How to Combat Fear and Anxiety from Atrial Fibrillation

Don't Let A-Fib in Your Head at A-Fib.com

Note: If you prefer to read instead of listen, click the transcript graphic bar below for the printed version.

A Podcast: Managing the Fear And Anxiety that Often Comes with Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation is often accompanied by Fear, Anxiety and Stress. That’s the topic of this podcast between Steve and our friend, Travis Van Slooten, publisher of LivingWithAtrialFibrillation.com. We discuss many ways that may help you with the emotional component of A-Fib. This is a longer episode (37 min.) as Travis and I had a lot to share and discuss!

Highlights from this Podcast

Note: Resources mentioned in this Podcast, plus others, are included below as hyperlinked text.

1.Knowledge is power. Knowledge is control.
2. Keep an Anxiety Thought log. (See Beat the A-Fib Mental Games: Try an Anxiety Thoughts Log)
3. Give yourself a daily “worry period” and then move on.
4. Keep a daily diary. Get your thoughts, anxiety, and worry on paper. (See Big Payoff: An A-Fib Diary Helps You Cope)
5. Consider yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.
6. Engage in light-to-moderate exercise such as daily walks.
7. Natural remedies to try: lavender oil, pharma GABA, L Theanine, magnesium, Relora, chamomile, and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica).
8. Prescription drugs such as Xanax and Ativan may help.
9. Professional counseling – especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help.
10. Reach out to A-Fib.com’s Support Volunteers.
11. Contact A-Fib.com’s Positive Thought/Prayer group.
12. Talk to your friends, family, and co-workers; explain how A-Fib makes you feel. (See our Free Report: Answers to the ‘Top 10 Questions Families Ask About Atrial Fibrillation)
13. Don’t become socially isolated because of your A-Fib. Stay connected with others!
14. Spiritual beliefs can help combat fear and anxiety. Pray. Go to your place of worship. Meditate.
15. Medical devices can help give you control over A-Fib and ease fear and anxiety. (See Guide to DIY Heart Rate Monitors [HRMs] & Handheld ECG Monitors)

Transcript: The Fear and Anxiety from Atrial Fibrillation
Travis Van Slooten: All right, for today’s episode of The A-Fib Podcast I invited Dr. Steve Ryan back again.

Steve is a former A-Fib patient who was cured of his A-Fib back in April 1998 via a catheter ablation. He’s the publisher of one of the most popular A-Fib websites, a-fib.com, and he’s the author of the bestselling book, Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure.

In this episode, Steve and I discover various things afibbers can try to do to help combat the mental and emotional challenges that come with having atrial fibrillation. So with that, let’s have a listen.

All right, Steve, what I want to talk about today is the mental and emotional challenges that afibbers face, because as you know A-Fib is a lot more than just the physical aspects of the condition. In fact, often times it’s the mental and emotional challenges that are harder to overcome than the physical aspects of A-Fib.

Steve Ryan: Yes indeed.

Travis Van Slooten: And I’m talking about those things like anxiety, fear, worry, confusion, frustration, depression, and of course, even anger. But as you noted, Steve, on your website so eloquently, A-Fib may be in your heart but it doesn’t need to be in your head. So with that Steve, I want you and I to give afibbers a variety of things that they could consider doing to combat some of these mental or emotional challenges. So with that, Steve, what are some of the things then that afibbers can do to overcome these things?

Steve Ryan: First, Travis, let me thank you for bringing up this subject; it’s perhaps one of the most important subjects that patients have to deal with. Let me start off by giving you a personal example. 20 years ago I had my first afib attack, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I came home from work – I was working on the soap opera Days of Our Lives as part of the technical crew; best job I ever had besides what I’m doing now – and my wife wasn’t home. She was out of town. I walked in the door — five minutes later my heart started going crazy on me. It felt like my heart was trying to jump out of my chest. I had all this pounding and confusion and naturally you’re asking yourself: what’s going on? Am I dying? Am I having a heart attack? You know? You’re terrorized by this thing. Because what was, you know, I wasn’t thinking straight and just drove to the hospital, the ER, and by the time I got there the episode was over.

But anyway, one of the hardest things to deal with is the terror and confusion and anxiety, like all the things you mentioned; I went through all of them in one night. And especially anger; for me anger was the key. I was so angry. I’m in perfect shape. I’m running. I’m doing everything I should, and I didn’t talk to my heart but I mean, you know? I say why are you doing this to me? I’m taking good care of you, why are you behaving like this?

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, I’ve been there.

Steve Ryan: So, unfortunately, when you have something like this and you go to the typical ER doctor you don’t expect much help. They’ve been trained to deal with the physical aspect of A-Fib, not the emotional and psychological. They don’t have that kind of training; they don’t have that kind of interest. So unfortunately we’re left to ourselves, and I wish I had a guaranteed way to help everybody but we’re doing the best we can. The first thing is knowledge is power, knowledge is control, and the more you learn about A-Fib…Let’s say for instance in my example; if someone had told me “Well, you’re not going to die from an A-Fib attack, that’s not what happened; it feels terrible but it isn’t going to kill you.” Well, if I had known I would have been much more relieved because I didn’t know that at the time.

And just to know that A-Fib is a heart condition, that as bad as it feels it’s not going to kill you immediately, that’s very stress relieving. And the more you read, the more you can get involved in websites — and good websites, not these fly-by-night things: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, our sites, my book. Anything you can do to develop more knowledge about A-Fib will give you more control, will give you a sense that, hey, I don’t have to live with this disease, it’s not going to kill me. I know what to do now. I know what causes it, any kind of knowledge that you can get to help relieve this anxiety.

Also, I’d like to mention that on our site we have over a hundred stories of people who have had A-Fib and been cured. Not all of them have been cured. But read some of those. If you find out that other people have symptoms like you and have been cured, that’s a real relief, that helps anxiety and gets you over the hump, so to say.

Travis Van Slooten:  Oh absolutely. I just want to backup a second. I’m just curious, Steve, so when you were first diagnosed what did your doctor tell you about A-Fib, or did they not say anything?

Steve Ryan: Again, it’s been 20 years so I can’t tell you exactly, but what I remember is they just gave me drugs. I tried every conceivable medication known to man at that time and they all didn’t work, and that’s all they could do. I don’t remember exactly what they said but they considered it a serious disease. They didn’t blow me off and say, “Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing to worry about. Everybody gets things like that.” No, they didn’t do that, they considered it seriously and they were trying to do what they can to get me out of it, but 20 years ago they didn’t know very much about A-Fib.

Travis Van Slooten: So that was very different. My experience was actually just the opposite. I actually consider myself very fortunate because like you said I went to the ER my first time and the ER doc, as you mentioned, they’re not trained to give you any real education, they’re just there to help you out and get you out the door. And I had a great ER doc and she cardioverted me and when I was done my discharge paper she just said, “Okay, you had an A-Fib episode. It’s called atrial fibrillation, and you might want to follow up with a cardiologist,” and she didn’t freak me out at all. She didn’t make it sound like it was a big deal. It wasn’t like, “Oh, this is very serious, don’t delay.” I remember her specifically telling me you might want to go see a cardiologist sometime…

Steve Ryan: Wow, really?

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, so I was like, “Okay, this can’t be a big deal,” but I, being the kind of person I am, type A person, I made the appointment the next day. And fortunately my cardiologist was an elderly cardiologist, and I didn’t know it at the time but he was nearing retirement. So he was in his upper 70s and he just was like, “Yeah, you have atrial fibrillation. It’s not a big deal. I’m going to put you on a Holter monitor. We just want to make sure that your heart is fine,” and so they sent me on my way for a 24-hour Holter monitor.

When I turned it back in he said everything looked fine. He said it’s no big deal. He said if these come back again—he said we have three options: we can cardiovert you again like you just went through, we can try some drugs as a lot of times that works, and if it doesn’t they have this thing called an ablation where we just go in and burn the spots, and you know, it’s not a big deal.

And so I was very fortunate because I had both the ER doc and the cardiologist telling me that it wasn’t really a big deal so I went for the first several years of my atrial fibrillation thinking it wasn’t a big deal. So it was, for me, I didn’t even really need to get knowledge because my doctors were telling me “Ah, it’s not a big deal.” I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right approach either. I think they’re somewhere in between, but for me, I didn’t really have too much anxiety or anything in the first few years of my A-Fib journey just because of the way they handled it. So I just find it interesting how different experiences we had.

Steve Ryan: Well, you know, again, I think they erred on the side of being too cavalier.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, exactly.

Steve Ryan: Let’s face it, you don’t want your heart to be in a disease condition if you can avoid it.

Travis Van Slooten: Yes.

Steve Ryan: And also let face it, one of the things I faced was I never knew when I was going to have another attack; they would come and go. For instance, I know some people keep a log and try to determine what they eat. I tried at that, it was no use at all. I have attacks—whenever A-Fib felt like coming it came. I had no control over it. And that kind of thing really put you on edge, you know, you just can’t relax, you never know when you’re going to have an attack.

That breathes anxiety and fear, and that’s something that we need to help patients cope with as much as we can. One thing that someone suggested to me that I thought seemed to work very well—I didn’t use it, but what he called it was an Anxiety Thought Log. This is from Anthony Bladen. And what he basically did was he recognized that in his subconscious all kinds of crazy things were going on. He was in fear, his subconscious was saying, without being explicit, “you’re going to die, you’re going to have another heart attack, you’re going to have a stroke, you are never going to get over this.” All these are things that are going around in his subconscious.

What he did was he tried to write each of these bad thoughts down specifically, make them specific and he called it an anxiety thought log; write down word for word what the anxious log was when and what was the trigger. Confront each fearful thought and try to restate it in a more reasonable frame of mind.

Another thing that people suggest is have a worry period, say, 20  Minutes a day; I’m just going to let all my thoughts go crazy, I’m going to worry about everything that I probably never should worry about and I’m going to let all these thoughts go and I’m going to do this for 20 minutes and then I’m going to go watch a movie or cooking show, whatever it takes to get into a different frame of mind and not try to worry about this any other time. These anxiety thought logs can be very helpful. And that’s one of the things we recommend for coping with the psychological and emotional effects of A-Fib.

Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely. And I’ll just piggyback on that too, I think just dairying in general— you did mentioned in an episode diary. I tried doing that as well, it didn’t really work for me, but I know some people have emailed me saying for them it’s— for some people actually kind of tracking when they have the episodes it gives them kind of a sense of control. So that might not necessarily work for all people, like you said for some it actually might create anxiety, but for some people it might give them some sense of control so that’s another type of diary that you could do as well.

Steve Ryan: Yes. Another thing that seems to help a lot is yoga relaxation technique, meditation. There is a real interesting study done by this doctor Lakkireddy at the University of Kansas. He had a bunch of his patients on monitors, and some of them were going to the same yoga class all together at the same time. And he noticed that, hey, these people, their A-Fib stops during this period of time, all of them. And he said, what’s going on here?

So he found out that they were going to a yoga class, and all of a sudden the light bulb went on and he said, “Maybe I better check this out,” and he started doing testing. And basically what he did was he took these people – again, it’s a short study so it wasn’t really comprehensive – he took them and the for three months he assessed their frequency of their A-Fib episode, how long they were, their anxiety, depression, their quality of life. Then months later he switched them to take in yoga classes for three. Specifically, this was iyengar yoga, which I don’t know about, but that’s what he particularly used.

I guess it uses breathing control exercises, yoga postures that you hold for 30 to 60 seconds and meditation relaxation techniques. And he found that doing these yoga exercises cut their episodes by 40 or 50%, and also improved their emotional well-being; their heartbeat and blood pressure dropped, their depression and anxiety eased. He didn’t know exactly why this happened but he speculates it. Here’s what he says—why he thinks yoga works to help relieve anxiety and depression and as well as A-Fib symptoms; “Yoga can be actually a very good intervention here because yoga reduces the number of episodes of A-Fib so that means it is decreasing the probability of you developing more systemic inflammation. It is also clearly established that doing yoga reduces the overall inflammatory burden on your body.”

Now a lot of people think that inflammation is one of the main causes of A-Fib and that may be one of the reasons why yoga works, but he added later “It’s not going to cure A-Fib; it’s going to help. It’s going to improve the burden. It’s going to help your anxiety and depression and things like that but it only makes A-Fib less burdensome, it isn’t a cure all.”

Travis Van Slooten: Yep. Now, I wonder what do you think; would you get the same benefits from doing light exercise like brisk walks and the like? I wonder if you get the same…

Steve Ryan: Oh yeah. Now, walking is very good. Walking at the same time of the day 20 minutes with the fresh air, and that is very relaxing and can be a great help to just relieving overall anxiety and depression, and improving blood pressure. Again, whenever you do anything like yoga, like we always recommend, always check with your doctor first before you do anything like this. It may seem that’s not going to cause any problem but you should always talk to your doctor about this to make sure everything is kosher.

Travis Van Slooten:  Well, especially if you’re in persistent A-Fib and you’re already having issues breathing or whatever because you’re in A-Fib — absolutely. Awesome. Other things you mentioned on your website Steve were natural remedies, lavender oil, aromatherapy. I never did that. Steve Ryan: Travis, I forgot one thing. Can I go back?

Travis Van Slooten: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Steve Ryan: I forgot to mention a meditation technique called mindfulness. This is advocated by Harvard Pilgrim nurse case manager Linda Bixby. And what it is — now this may sound counter-intuitive, but what it is, instead of rebelling and being frightened by an A-Fib attack is to sort of embrace it, look at it; what am I going through? How does this feel? Okay, I see, my heart is beating a little faster, I’m getting a little dizzy, whatever it takes.

It’s to observe rather than resist and worry. Let an A-Fib attack run its course. And like this one guy says; “What I do is just take it in and letting myself feel the physical A-Fib experience was actually relaxing.” Now, again, I’m not saying this will work for everyone but it’s a meditation technique that might help you. Okay, now let’s go back to what you mentioned about the natural remedies.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, you had mentioned on your site natural remedies like lavender oil, aromatherapy – again, I never got into that – Pharma GABA. I also want to add L Theanine. I like Suntheanine specifically. I found Pharma GABA and Suntheanine to help a little bit to kind of take the edge off anxiety. Also just throw some other ones here magnesium, Relora , I’ve never heard of that actually. Chamomile and other herbal teas, and you have this other thing called Gotu Kola. I’m not even sure what that is, but talk to me about some of the natural remedies.

Steve Ryan: Yeah, I can’t speak from experience on this because I’ve been cured of A-Fib for 20 years but I know I’ve tried lavender oil and it’s very soothing. It seems to smell really good and be relaxing. As far as the other one, Pharma GABA works on the same pathway as chemical things like Xanax and Valium but it doesn’t have all the negative side effects and it’s not addictive. It’s a bioidentical form of GABA which is gamma-aminobutyric acid. It’s a calming agent. It sort of calms your nerves.

Travis Van Slooten: And like I said, I’ve tried that. I actually was taking that up until recently just to kind of take the edge off. Supplements are so different than drugs. With supplements you don’t feel like an immediate hit like you do with a drug. I just want people listening to this, if you’re taking any of these supplements it’s not something that you’re going to pop and you’re going to feel right away, it’s usually kind of a gradual thing that you actually kind of have— it takes time actually for the effect the kick in, and by that I mean taking it kind of daily. But I don’t know if it ever really worked or not, I just took it. I seemed to be more calm than not, but I don’t know…Who knows, it could have been a placebo effect for all I know. But yeah, these are all things that people should have on their radar as potential ways to help them with their…

Steve Ryan: It’s worth a try.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely.

Steve Ryan: I mentioned Xanax; I should preface this by saying Xanax does have anti-arrhythmic properties but it’s addictive so you’ve got to be careful of it. There have been testimonials from people who take Xanax on a regular basis. I can’t recommend that again because it is addictive. Pharma GABA might be a better alternative for that.

The others I mentioned Relora  I have never tried it, I really have no idea. It’s supposed to reduce cortisol levels and promote feelings of relaxation. Chamomile tea, that’s been well known to reduce irritability and headaches and abdominal pain coming from anxiety. What you do is you substitute chamomile tea for caffeinated beverage or take 60 drops of chamomile tincture in two ounces of water four times a day before and after meals or add two drops of concentrated chamomile essential oil to a hot bath at night. Again, those are things that you can do that aren’t going to cause you any medical problems most likely, again, everybody is different.

And in terms of Gotu Kola, I really have not had any experience with that. It’s supposed to restore health to brain and nerve cells by promoting blood circulation to the brain which has a calming effect. And as you know, A-Fib reduces blood circulation to the brain, so anything that improves blood circulation to the brain should be a help.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll just say too with the magnesium, you could take that as an oral supplement or a spray. But another thing that I actually use even today – and I’m not suffering from A-Fib, knock on wood, thanks to my ablation – but I will do foot soaks with magnesium in the water, and I find that actually very relaxing.

Steve Ryan: Epsom salt baths.

Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely, very relaxing.

Steve Ryan: The one thing you need to be careful of is don’t go whole hog on magnesium right away because excess magnesium if your body isn’t ready for it can produce diarrhea which defeats the purpose of the magnesium.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, exactly.

Steve Ryan: So take it easy. If you use magnesium, start it gradually and work up to ideally 600 or 800 mg of magnesium a day.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah absolutely. I want to segue here and get into the meds just a little bit because you’d mentioned it. Again, I’m not a big advocate of meds but there’s no doubt there is a time and place for them. You mentioned Xanax. One of the meds that I was prescribed and that I even take today from time to time is Ativan, but these are drugs as you’ve mentioned can be highly addictive so you’ve got to be really careful about them.

And typically when doctors prescribe these they’re very careful about how they prescribe it and they’re very careful to monitor how much you’re taking. But these are drugs at that, you know, like I said, I’m not a big fan of them but a lot of people — I know I get emails from a lot of people that say Xanax and Ativan helps them a great deal particularly during an episode. It just helps calm them and relax them. So I don’t want to discount meds. Again, it’s not something I recommend, but it is something certainly worth considering because they might in fact play a role for some people.

Steve Ryan: Again, this goes along with counseling. If A-Fib is really bothering you, especially if you’re a guy, don’t hesitate to get professional counseling and they will indicate to you maybe if you need meds to take or that kind of thing. But guys especially we tend to tough it out “I don’t have to put up with this.” Get professional counseling if it helps, just someone to talk to about what you’re going through with A-Fib and your anxieties and what you’re worried about and how it’s affecting your family and how to cope with it. That can be important, so don’t hesitate to get professional counseling. It can be very helpful.

Travis Van Slooten: Huge. And one of my readers had emailed me the other day actually. I had posted a question on Facebook and just asked hey, what do you guys do to combat anxiety? One woman contacted me and said she had tremendous success with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. And so I kind of looked into that a little bit, and it turns out that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is one of the most effective natural ways to combat anxiety. So that’s definitely counseling and specifically cognitive behavioral therapy; these are things that definitely you want to have on your list.

Steve Ryan: Yes, yes indeed, good.

Travis Van Slooten: And you mentioned professional counseling, and on your site Steve you also have A-Fib support volunteers. Now, these aren’t professional counselors. Tell me a little bit about this program.

Steve Ryan: Well, professional counseling is one thing, but these people are sort of like friends who have had A-Fib. They’re not professional counselors, they’re just friends you can talk to and share experiences with. And we have about 60 or 70 people on our website from all around the world who volunteer their time to talk to people and to be – how shall I say it – A-Fib friends; someone they can talk to about what they’re going through because they’ve been through the same experience.

Not all of them have been cured; some are still in A-Fib. So you’re getting a wide spectrum of different people with different experiences. But that is very helpful. And we also have something that I don’t—well, let me talk about it and you’ll see what I mean.

We have a positive thought prayer group, an A-Fib positive thought prayer group. Now what that means, if people are so inclined, what I do for instance when I go to church on Sunday I will have the names of people who are coming up for an ablation and I will ask people at church to pray for them, and if someone, let’s say, is coming up for an ablation and they join the positive thought prayer group they will get emails and prayers and positive thoughts from people all around the world.

It’s very… well, I’ve experienced it myself. I recently had a colon surgery and I said to myself “Oh, gee wiz, why don’t I use this positive thought prayer group. You know, it’s not a fib but they can certainly be of help to me.” So I sent my information into them, and I was moved to tears by all the wonderful responses I got from people. Obviously, since I started the program I’m probably going to get more responses than the average person, but nevertheless, it was really heartwarming.

I mean it brings tears to my eyes right now thinking about all the wonderful people who emailed me and who prayed for me and who thought positive thoughts about me when I had my surgery. It’s really wonderful.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, and I’ll just attest to that because I’m actually on that list and so I get the emails that come through periodically. And you’re right though, I mean it’s very powerful. And you mentioned you might get more responses than someone else but I’ll just say that someone else actually they’ll get a lot of responses. It’s a very positive program, and I highly, highly recommend it. Now if they want to do the A-Fib support volunteer or this positive thought prayer group, they just go to your website, Steve? I assume there’s a link to these two different things.

Steve Ryan: Yes, they have a link there that they can sign up for. Right now we don’t have a coordinator for the support volunteers, but we do have a great coordinator for the positive thought prayer group. But they still are functioning very well and people can make use of those resources.

Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely. And the beauty of those types of resources—because the other thing I wanted to mention on our list here Steve, was list support from friends and family.

Steve Ryan: Yes indeed.

Travis Van Slooten: Well, that’s definitely important, but one of the things that I hear from a lot of people, and I’m one of them, friends and family, you know, they can only take you so far because if they can’t empathize what you’re going through. A-Fib is such a unique condition that so many people just have a real hard time kind of understanding. So sometimes even though you reach out to friends and family you can still feel so isolated because they don’t really know what to tell you or how to support you. And that’s the beauty of your support volunteer group and the positive thought prayer group; these are people that have been there, they know exactly what you’re going through.

Steve Ryan: It’s not like you’re bleeding or you have a broken leg; it’s hard for your family to identify with what you’re going through. You need to realize that A-Fib is going to affect you not only emotionally and mentally but socially as well. Maybe not necessarily your immediate family, but your friends, your co-workers; you need to sit down and talk to them and explain what atrial fibrillation is like and ask for understanding and try to communicate to them what you’re going through, because people go to work and all of a sudden they can’t do anything anymore because their brain is in a fog because if their A-Fib. It’s really scary when you have A-Fib, and you need to help your friends and support people understand what you’re going through. That’s very important.

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, and it can be very easy to get into this rut where you get into a situation where you start to isolate yourself from your friends and family, particularly if you have persistent A-Fib where you’re constantly feeling like crap, you know, you got friends inviting you out to do things and go golfing with you or whatever and you can’t because you’re in A-Fib. You get in the situation where you’re “No, I can’t go.” And like you said, it’s not a good idea to keep things to yourself; communicate with your friends and family, let them know, “Hey, this is what’s going on. I’m not trying to be antisocial but I just kind of feel like crap right now.” Because if they understand more it’s just going to help you in these situations.

Steve Ryan: Yes.

Travis Van Slooten: Let’s see here; you mentioned again the positive thought prayer group, and with that, you know, just religion and prayer can help a lot of people. I’m a Christian, I go to church regularly, I read the Bible daily. I try to make a point to listen to inspiring sermons on a daily basis, and I make it a point to meditate on God’s words every day if I can. So I don’t want to discount—I know some people may not be religious, but for a lot of us religion and prayer can go a long way in relieving anxiety and fear.

Steve Ryan: Yeah, most of the people on the positive thought prayer a-fib websites are Christians but not all; many are of other religions, many have no religion. There have been studies that show that positive thoughts by itself can help other people, can help them improve their health. There have been studies on that. It’s not just a ‘we’re just making it up’ kind of thing; it’s really does have an effect on people.

Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely. And then the final thing, Steve, I think that can help relieve anxiety and fear and all these negative emotions and mental challenges is – and it’s going to sound kind of weird – but medical devices accessories can go a long way. And I’ll just give you some examples from my end, and Steve you may have some as well from your readers and followers of your website, but one of my readers sent me an email; she wears a medical ID bracelet that she pushes a button and it calls 911 and she says that just helps her – she’s an elderly lady with A-Fib – and she says that just gives her a sense of security and control that if something happens she can click on this thing and help will be on its way.

Others have had implantable heart monitors; and just knowing that your heart’s being monitored and so if anything weird goes on beyond A-Fib the doctor is going to be on the other line monitoring what’s going on with your heart.

And of course, I’m a huge fan of Alivecor’s Kardia heart monitor. That thing, I cannot tell you Steve how much that got me through my A-Fib episodes; just having that device there to kind of walk me through what was going on because as I was going through an episode I could grab my Kardia heart monitor and confirm I was in A-Fib—because I was on pill in the pocket therapy at that time so I would pop my flecainide, but before I would do that I wanted to make sure I was actually in A-Fib so I used this monitor, the Kardia monitor, and then after the flecainide kicked in and I cardioverted I would use the monitor again just to confirm that I was out of A-Fib so that device was a savior for me. So these medical devices can go a long way in giving you a sense of control over this condition.

Steve Ryan: Yes, and now they are developing a watch that you wear, and you just hit two buttons on that watch and it tells everything that’s going on. It’s perhaps one of the best things that has happened to patient care in maybe the last 10 years. Why? Almost everyone over 65 should have some kind of testing for atrial fibrillation, and instead of going through EKG and maybe there is nothing going on and having a 30-day monitor or something like that, you just put on this watch and it tells you all that information, and it tells the doctor everything. From a public health aspect, if we can get this going there may come a day when no one has a silent A-Fib anymore because everyone who turns 65 gets one of these watches and it can tell the doctors whether they’re in A-Fib or not. It’s really one of the most amazing breakthroughs in medical therapy for A-Fib that I’ve seen. We’re not there yet, but we’re close.

Travis Van Slooten: Oh, yeah.

Steve Ryan: We’re close.

Travis Van Slooten: And I would say we’re rapidly heading there though so that’s the good part of that. The medical devices are just—they’re awesome. Well, Steve is there any other summary thoughts here on this topic that you want to…

Steve Ryan: Well, I really want to mention something. A lady, Pat Truesdale, said she keeps a log of everything that seems to bring on her A-Fib. And she kept this log: ice, drinks, caffeine, every meals, going to sleep at night, and she also developed symptoms that are indications of A-Fib coming: high blood pressure, belching, heartburn where she can anticipate whether she’s going to develop an A-Fib attack. And I encourage anyone who might want to read her story on our website –they might be helped by this. Now, she also has a unique story in that she’s probably the one who has had the fastest catheter ablations in history. She develops A-Fib, eight weeks later she had an ablation and was A-Fib free. I’ve never heard of something happening that fast.

Travis Van Slooten: That is fast. So she’s A-Fib-free today then?

Steve Ryan: Yes.

Travis Van Slooten: Oh wow, that’s fantastic. Definitely I’ll link to her story because I know which one you’re talking about there so we’ll definitely link to that. Awesome. All right, well perfect. Steve I appreciate you joining me today and talking about this because it is a very, very important topic. I know when I threw this question out on Facebook it was the most responded to thing I’ve ever put on Facebook.

Steve Ryan: Really?

Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, there are a lot of people that struggle with the mental and emotional challenges with A-Fib. So I’m glad we’re having this discussion, and Steve….

Steve Ryan: They won’t get much help from their doctors. That’s one of the problems.

Travis Van Slooten: And even the good doctor’s like my local EP is a fantastic doctor, I absolutely love this guy, but he gives me zero information on this stuff. So even as good as he is they’re just not trained I don’t think to do that stuff. Is that the issue? Steve Ryan: Yes. That’s the issue, yeah. In other words, psychiatry, that’s another field for them.

Travis Van Slooten: Fantastic. Steve, as always, thanks for joining me today. Steve Ryan: You’re welcome.

Travis Van Slooten: All right, bye now.

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.

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.

Learn about sharing your A-Fib story

Return to: Personal A-Fib Stories

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Thursday, March 15, 2018

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