By Steve S. Ryan, PhD
Your first experiences with Atrial Fibrillation have changed your life in a number of ways. As a former A-Fib patient (cured since 1998) I highly recommend these items when first diagnosed with this beast called ‘Atrial Fibrillation’.
My Top 5 Recommendations for the Newly Diagnosed
These are the products I recommend (and use) along with a Bonus: a good medical dictionary. These items are available from many online sources, but I’ve made them easy to order by making a ‘Wish List’ on Amazon.com. (Note: Use our Amazon portal link, and your purchases help support A-Fib.com.)
Most A-Fib patients are deficient in Magnesium (Mg). While Magnesium (Mg) is one of the main components of heart cell functioning, it seems to be chronically lacking in most diets.
One form of easily absorbed magnesium is Magnesium glycinate, a chelated amino acid. Look for the label ‘Albion Minerals’ designed to limit bowel sensitivity. Dosage: 600-800 mg daily in divided dosages (meals and bedtime). Read more about Magnesium.
Just like magnesium deficiency, A-Fib patients are usually deficient in Potassium as well. We recommend the powder in order to take the recommended dose of 1600-2400 mg per day.
Be cautious of potassium tablets. For example those listed as 540 mg ONLY contain 99 mg of Potassium. Read more about Potassium.
3. Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure: Written in everyday language for patients with Atrial Fibrillation
A-Fib can be cured! That’s the theme of this book written by a former A-Fib patient and publisher of the patient education website, A-Fib.com. Empowers patients to seek their cure. Written in plain language for A-Fib patients and their families.
4. Polar FT2 Heart Rate Monitor, Black or Blue
Many A-Fib patients want to monitor their heart rate when exercising or doing strenuous tasks (mowing the lawn, moving equipment, etc.) This is a basic DIY model with a clear, LARGE number display of your heart rate (as a number). Requires wearing the included T31 coded transmitter chest strap.
One-button start. Includes a FT2 Getting Started Guide.
Many A-Fib patients also suffer with undiagnosed sleep apnea. A finger Oximeter is an easy way to check your oxygen level. A reading of 90% or lower means you should talk to your doctor as you may need a sleep study.
An excellent medical dictionary, the best I’ve found for patients with Atrial Fibrillation who are conducting research into their best treatment options. Includes occasional illustrations (for fun check p. 276 for the types of fingerprint patterns).
Learn More about…
For more suggestions, see my Amazon.com ‘Wish List’ By a Former A-Fib Patient: My Recommended Products.
Our A-Fib Support Volunteers: Just an Email Away
After being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, it’s helpful to talk with someone who knows what you are going through, someone you can turn to for advice, emotional support, and a sense of hope that you can be cured. That’s the role of our A-Fib Support Volunteers.
They offer you support and encouragement through exchanging emails and sharing their stories. (Not all Support Volunteers are ‘cured’ of their A-Fib, but have found the best outcome for their situation.) Learn about our world-wide network and how to contact one or more of our volunteers.
A-Fib patients sometimes use consumer ‘DIY” Heart Rate Monitors (HRM) when exercising or performing physically demanding activities (For specific models and options, see our article, DIY Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG Monitors Part I.)
How Do DIY Heart Rate Monitors Work?
Basic HRMs use a chest strap to pick up the electrical signals from the heart. However, due to the inherent design of the chest strap, the accuracy is somewhat limited and is no replacement for the signals recorded by a Holter or Event Monitor.
A HRM keeps track of your heart’s R-R interval or the time between R peaks. Without getting too technical, the R peak on a generic ECG waveform (see the diagram) corresponds to the ventricle beat (depolarization) and has the largest amplitude (height) of the complete waveform.
When the amplitude (picked up as a voltage differential) exceeds a certain threshold, a “beat” is picked up by the chest strap and transmitted wirelessly to the HRM. It is the time between these R peak “beats” that is used by the HRM to determine instantaneous heart rate. It is only going to pick up episodes of arrhythmia as are manifested in ventricle beats (the R on the waveform).
Learn more about the EKG signal, see Steve’s article: “Understanding the EKG (ECG) Signal“.
Learn more about the EKG signal, see Steve’s article: “Understanding the EKG (ECG) Signal“.
This is one of the fundamental differences in how data is recorded by HRMs (R-R interval) versus Holter/Event Monitors (actual waveform).
In fact, this is what Polar has to say:
Polar products are not designed to detect arrhythmia or irregular rhythms and will interpret them as noise or interference. The computer in the wrist unit will make error corrections, so that arrhythmia beats are not included in the averaged beats per minute. The blinking heart symbol in the face of the unit, however, will continue to show all heart beats received.
In most cases the Polar products will work fine for persons with arrhythmia.
HRM Recording Capability
Most HRMs provide some internal storage recording capability. While lower cost HRMs simply record low, high and average heart rate, upper end models allow you to download heart rate data to your PC.
App-enabled smartphones are changing how this data is viewed, collected and saved for future review.
How To Setup and Use an HRM
On most of the HRMs, you can set a heart rate zone, and the watch monitor (or app-enabled smartphone) will record how long you stayed in that zone.
You could then program a high heart rate zone which you might only enter if you were in A-Fib. That way you could record how long you stayed in A-Fib and what your max heart rate was. This data could be reviewed on the watch monitor (or app-enabled smartphone) without having to download it to a PC.
On HRMs with PC interface capability, you can view data in a graphic form (on some watches/smartphones you can view the graphic data but with lower resolution.) This analyses could tell you when you were at a higher heart rate—A-Fib—and how long you stayed there. Of course these kinds of features require some PC skills, but typically the programs are pretty user friendly. (See the above graphic example of a Polar PC program).
For more, see our article, DIY Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG Monitors.
Return to Index of Articles: Diagnostic Testing
Last updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2015
FAQs Coping With Your Atrial Fibrillation: Day-to-Day Issues
Coping with your Atrial Fibrillation means a patient and their family have many and varied questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about dealing with the day-to-day issues of having Atrial Fibrillation. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)
2. “Is there any way to predict when I’m going to have an A-Fib attack?”
3. “Should I exercise when in A-Fib or skip it and rest? Can I damage my heart if I exercise in A-Fib?”
4. “How long do I have before I go into chronic or permanent A-Fib? I know it’s harder to cure. My A-Fib episodes seem to be getting longer and more frequent.”
5. “They want to do an Atrial Flutter-only ablation, will that help if I possibly have A-Fib as well?”
6. “Is smoking medical marijuana or using Marinol going to trigger or cause A-Fib? Will it help my A-Fib?
7. “During an A-Fib episode, when should I call paramedics (911 in the US) and/or take my husband to the hospital? I’m petrified. I need a plan.”
8. “I have a lot of extra beats and palpitations (PVCs or PACs) They seem to proceed an A-Fib attack. What can or should I do about them?”
9. “How do I know which is the best A-Fib treatment option for me?”
10. “When my husband has an Atrial Fibrillation episode, what can I do for him? How can I be supportive?”
11. “How can I tell when I’m in A-Fib or just having something like indigestion?”
12. “What kind of monitors are available for atrial fibrillation? Is there any way to tell how often I get A-Fib or how long the episodes last?”
13. “I’m an athlete with A-Fib and have a naturally slow heart rate. My doctor says I need a pacemaker because my heart rate is too slow.”
14. “Can excess iron in the blood cause Atrial Fibrillation? How do I know? If I have Iron Overload Deficiency (IOD), what can I do about it?”
15. “Can too little iron in the blood (Anemia) cause Atrial Fibrillation? What can I do about iron deficiency?”
16. “Is it possible to have a single A-Fib attack and not have any others? I had a single episode of A-Fib and was successfully converted in the ER with meds.”
17. “My mom is 94 with A-Fib. Are there consumer heart rate monitors she can wear to alert me at work if her heart rate exceeds a certain number?”
18. “Can I have A-Fib when my heart rate stays between 50-60 BPM? My doctor tells me I have A-Fib, but I don’t always have a rapid heart rate.”
19. “I’m in Chronic A-Fib. Can I improve my circulation, without having to undergo a Catheter Ablation or Surgery?”
20. “In one of your articles it said that having an ablation was better than living in A-Fib. I’ve been taking 75 mg of propafenone 3X/day for seven years and have only had 5 A-Fib attacks in 7 years. If your article means all types of A-Fib [including Paroxysmal], then I will consider an ablation.”
21. “Both my uncles and my Dad have Atrial Fibrillation. I’m 50 years old and so far I don’t have A-Fib (yet), but I’m worried. How can I avoid developing A-Fib? Can dietary changes help? Or lifestyle changes?”
Last updated: Sunday, March 27, 2016
Return to Frequently Asked Questions
17. “I care for my mom who has A-Fib. She is 94 and sees a doctor on a regular basis. She gets A-Fib attacks maybe once every two weeks and usually in the morning. But I work full time. Is there a heart rate monitor my mom can wear that would alert me when her heart rate is over a certain number? That way I can be alerted even when I’m at work.”
Yes, MyPulse by Smart Monitors, Inc. has a solution for you. This is a practical alternative to the expense of a medical monitoring service if you are just interested in simple heart rate data. Most consumer heart rate monitors rely on a chest strap which transmits heart rate data to a wristwatch. The MyPulse Long Range Monitor has a small Repeater device carried by the person wearing the chest strap. The Repeater transmits the data to a Receiver which is connected to a PC/notebook via a USB port. The MyPulse application runs on a PC and provides a graphic display of real time heart rate data.
The software can be configured to provide alerts via email or text message to multiple recipients if a preset heartbeat limit is exceeded.
(Thanks Julie Skarbeck for this important question and to Ed Webb for doing the research and writing about the Smart Monitor.)