Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on July 30, 2017.
Early in my battle with atrial fib my heartrate could go as high as 200 sporadic beats per minute. Doctors tried anti-arrhythmia drugs, none of which worked. Some caused more AFib, some had side effects causing joint pain or flu-like symptoms. My only protection against stroke was the blood thinner warfarin.
I asked my electrophysiologist, “Why not a pacemaker? Wouldn’t that make the rapid heartbeat slow down and regulate the heart?”
A pacemaker only adjusts the heart rate when it’s too slow, not when it is too fast. Most people don’t know that. I didn’t.
Two adjustments occurred to previous statements:
- When an anti-arrhythmia drug was found to work for me, it did lower my heartrate, not only when I was experiencing atrial fib, but all of the time. So, my resting rate went from 52 beats per minute to 40. I was tired most of the time, but probably safer.
- The pacemaker can go faster than its setting rate during exercise. My pacemaker is set at a resting rate of 60 beats per minute. It never goes lower. Since the cardiac ablation my heart rate only goes higher as I increase my level of activity. After a few minutes on the treadmill or the bike, it’s likely to go up to 100 steady beats until the exercise ends and my pulse goes back to a resting rate. It’s the amazing technology of today’s pacemakers.
Read next week’s blog for more about pacemakers and how I came to have 3 of them.