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
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6. “Is smoking medically prescribed marijuana or using Marinol (prescription form) going to trigger or cause A-Fib? Will it help my A-Fib?
There isn’t much clinical research on this subject. The makers of the prescription pill form of marijuana Marinol (aka dronabinol) advise:
“…It should be used with caution in patients with cardiac disorders (like A-Fib) because of occasional hypotension, possible hypertension, syncope, or tachycardia. Dronabinol-induced sympathomimetic activity may result in tachycardia.”
[Frankly this statement seems to be a typical “cover your a-s” legal protection.]
A-Fib and Marijuana: During the past few years an increasing number of case reports indicate an association between marijuana smoking and the development of A-Fib. Compelling evidence is accumulating that marijuana has significant effects on the cardiovascular system.
Form Matters. The form of marijuana, the preparation and method of consumption affect the biological response, that is, “marijuana smoking, oral intake of hashish or hashish oil and intravenous administration of cannabis, may have a different physiological impact.”
Recently marijuana has been implicated in neurologic complications such as headache, transient ischaemic attacks and stroke. Middle age stroke patients were 2.3 times more likely to be pot smokers than healthy middle age control patients.
About palpitations: Marijuana smoking is independently associated with increased incidence of palpitations (although the underlying cause of this finding was not yet clear).
Personal Experiences Advice
JIM: Jim, an a-Fib patient, has kindly shared his personal experiences about how marijuana helps him. He has tried various meds, cardioversion, and had a failed ablation. He owns his own business in California and is under a lot of stress.
“Because of all of this, I was having trouble sleeping and was getting very stressed out. But instead of taking something pharmaceutical, I turned to medical marijuana. It changed my life. I come home at night, have some marijuana edibles, and the stress goes away. I sleep wonderfully at night, waking up fresh and ready for another day. I told my doctor who understands. He says that marijuana edibles shouldn’t have anything to do with A-Fib, and that I can continue to take them.”
JOHN: On the other hand, John writes that “99% of his A-Fib attacks occurred while under the influence of marijuana.”
WILLIAM: William writes, “The A-Fib ablation has been very successful, except the two times that I went into A-Fib after smoking marijuana. I’m a lifelong recreational marijuana smoker, also smoke to relieve the pain from six surgeries on my right arm. Both times that I’ve gone into A-Fib since my last ablation have been after smoking marijuana. After the latest episode I’ve quite smoking marijuana because of the evidence that it can lead to A-Fib.”
Due to the increased use of medical marijuana in California and other states, we should soon be getting more data on marijuana’s effects on A-Fib.