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13 things to know about Atrial Fibrillation

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  • 13 things to know about Atrial Fibrillation

    Sensible advice from an electrophysiologist and endurance athlete, Dr. John Mandrola.

    "Here are 13 things I tell AF patients.
    1. I am sorry that you have AF. Welcome to the club, there are many members. (Three million Americans and counting.)
    2. I know how it feels.
    3. Your fatigue, shortness of breath and uneasiness in the chest are most likely related to your AF.
    4. AF may pass without treatment. Really.
    5. Important new work suggests AF is modifiable with lifestyle measures. As in you can help yourself.
    6. AF isn’t immediately life-threatening, though it feels so.
    7. Worrying about AF is like worrying about getting gray hair and wrinkles. Plus, excessive worry makes AF more likely to occur.
    8. Emergency rooms treat all AF in the same way. One hammer — often a big one.
    9. There is no “cure” for AF. (See #5)
    10. The treatment of AF can be worse than the disease.
    11. The worst (and most non-reversible) thing that can happen with AF is a stroke. For AF patients with more than one of these conditions: Age> 75, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, or previous stroke, the only means of lowering stroke risk is to take an anticoagulant drug. Sorry about the skin bruises; a stroke is worse. Know you CHADS-VASc score.
    12. The treasure of AF ablation includes eliminating AF episodes without taking medicines. But AF ablation is not like squishing a blockage or doing a stress test. It will be hard on you. It works 60-80% of the time, has to be repeated one-third of the time and has a list of very serious complications.
    13. If your AF heart rate is not excessive, it’s unlikely that you will develop heart failure. Likewise, if you have none of the 5 risks for stroke, or you take anti-coagulant drugs, AF is unlikely to cause a stroke. In these cases, you don’t have to take an AF-rhythm drug(s) or have an ablation. You can live with AF. You might not be as good as you were, but you will continue to be."

  • #2
    Hey John, thanks for the post.
    I read a handful of things a few months ago that made me think that I might have AFib. I wrote down the symptoms / my thoughts a while back but just can't seem to find the dang paper. I definitely experience what I think are palpatations/arrythmias occasionally, occasionally racing heart at inappropriate times (sitting), and infrequently I get persistent shortness of breath that seems inappropriate (ie, no exertion, just sitting). Last one might be stress related, but those three got me initially thinking about AFib.

    Anyway, I'm wondering if you have any thoughts or advice -- eg, are there some clear signs to look for? Is there anything in particular i should mention to my doc?
    I ask because (a) I know AFib can be serious, but (b) my doc visits always a bit rushed.

    Thanks for the post! Helpful info.


    • #3
      Here are the common symptoms of AFiB.

      I was fortunate that my AFIB got picked up in a routine exam, although I had no symptoms whatsoever. It’s still needs attention and potential treatment. Paroxysmal AFIB can be hard to confirm as it comes and goes.

      i would take your list of symptoms and make an appointment with your doc for that issue alone. Don’t try to cram it in with other issues as your doc is probably has a 15 minute time allotment. Saying “Oh by the way, as long as I’m here I think I might have AFIB” probably won’t get their attention. You should get an EKG and possibly a Holter Monitor. If your doctor won’t listen get a referral to a cardiologist or electrophysiologist.

      Consider getting a Kardia AFIB detector for your smartphone. It will allow you to email your doctor, or yourself, a tracing of your EKG. Print out the report each time you experience an episode and keep track for a few weeks prior to your doctor visit.


      • #4
        Thanks a bunch, John. I'll have to put that EKG device & one of their BP monitors on my wish list!


        • #5
          I agree. John helped me with my a fib as well. Good resources & information!