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Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...


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"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...."

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Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA


Kelly McGonigal

A-Fib Patients: Is Stress Really Bad For You?

Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, has challenged the conventional view that stress is bad for you. I found a few insights from her book encouraging for A-Fib patients.

Researchers who followed 30,000 US Americans for eight years found that the risk for death from any cause rose by 43% among participants who had high levels of stress. But that number applied only to people who believed that the stress they were experiencing was bad for their health.

From the Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

From the Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

Study participants who reported similar levels of stress but who did not consider it to be bad for their health, had survival rates that were actually better than those of people with relatively stress-free lives.

Dr. McGonigal recommends telling yourself “I’m excited” rather than stressed. Try to look at stress as simply your body’s response when something you care about is at stake. The pounding heart or faster breathing is your body’s way of heightening your senses so that you are mentally focused and motivated to do well.

Look at stress as a challenge rather than a looming threat.

So What Does this Mean for A-Fib Patients? Stress, by itself, is not usually a trigger for an A-Fib attack. (You could be totally stress-free, lounging on a swing on a tropical isle and still have an A-Fib attack.)

But stress can play a role in the intensity and duration of your A-Fib attacks.

Beyond the physical, A-Fib has psychological and emotional effects as well. Recent research indicates that “psychological distress” worsens the severity of A-Fib symptoms.

Kelly G book cover - Upside of Stress 75 pix wide at 300 res

Buy this book

Give Dr. McGonigal’s Advice a Try. So, when feeling stressed, try mentally ‘reframing’ the stress as a ‘challenge’ rather than as a looming threat. Tell yourself “I’m excited” rather than stressed. It may help lessen your A-Fib symptoms. (Let me know if this works for you! Email me.)

Sounds like this approach could help in many areas of our lives.

For other ways to cope with your stress, see our A-Fib.com article, Coping With the Fear and Anxiety of Atrial Fibrillation.

For more about stress from Kelly McGonigal, read her The Washington Post interview, or her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

Israeli Study Contradicts Recent CHA2DS2-Vasc Guidelines: Being Female Not a Risk Factor for Stroke

CHAD2DS2VAC Medium 100 pix at 96 resby Steve S. Ryan, May 2015

This is another powerful study contradicting the recent CHA2DS2-VASc guidelines which gives every women with A-Fib one point on the stroke risk scale because of her female gender, no matter how healthy she is otherwise.

An Israeli study tracked nearly 100,000 patients who developed A-Fib. They were followed for approximately four years between  2004 and 2011. The purpose of this observational study was to re-evaluate the risk of ischemic stroke, major bleeding and death in men and women with A-Fib.

Controversial CHA2DS2-VASc Risk Data and Analyses?

Previous controversial data and analyses showed an increased risk of stroke among women. The recent CHA2DS2-VASc risk score states that being a female is a risk factor for stroke.

“In light of our findings, we suggest to use a similar anticoagulant strategy in [both] men and women with atrial fibrillation over the age of 65.”

But in this Israeli study, “the risk of ischemic stroke was similar in men and women.” Women who developed A-Fib were older than men by four years (74 vs, 70) and had more hypertension, but lower prevalence of diabetes, congestive heart failure and ischemic heart disease. The rates of ischemic stroke were identical between male and female patients, 5.3% for both genders.

Factors associated with increased stroke risk were previous stroke, age older than 65, hypertension, congestive heart failure and diabetes. Adjusting for the age difference between the men and women who developed A-Fib in this study, death risk was associated with male gender, age over 65, previous stroke or heart attack, and diabetes.

Study Conclusion

The authors concluded, “In light of our findings, we suggest to use a similar anticoagulant strategy in men and women with atrial fibrillation over the age of 65.”

Editor’s Comments:

Intuitively it doesn’t make sense that simply being a woman makes you more at risk of having an A-Fib stroke. This study seems to confirm what common sense would indicate.
Women in their child-bearing years are much less at risk of stroke because of the blood-thinning effect of losing blood each month. And even after menopause women have less risk of stroke. But eventually they do have more strokes. But not because of an innate inferiority, but because women live longer than men. Stroke and hypertension are age related. In this israeli study women who developed A-Fib were four years older than men.
Be advised that the original European guidelines were written by doctors with major conflicts of interest. These guidelines may be a not so very subtle form of gender bias. Also, just adding one point to a person’s stroke risk score translates into a huge increase in sales for pharmaceutical companies.
References for this article

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Last updated: Monday, March 28, 2016

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