Author Archives: Mark Layman

On Vacation

Blog readers: Summer is a time to read and to write. I intend to do both and hope, you, my readers will do the same. I’m taking a break from blogging for a few months. In August, I will return with information about new discoveries, procedures dealing with atrial fib and other issues of the heart and body. Meanwhile, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, on order at your local book store and at Audible.com (clickable icons are below). For information about another great beach read NO SEX IN ST. TROPEZ.

Stay healthy.

Rosalie Linver Ungar

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes


Atrial Fib Gets Attention … Finally!

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on June 24, 2018.


The new Bob & Corrine Frick Center for Heart Failure and Arrhythmia is being created as part of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Ross Heart Hospital. Yes, I repeat, arrhythmia, which now affects millions of Americans. The Fricks are contributing 18 million dollars for this center.

Atrial fib is the most common form of arrhythmia and A-Fib affects 3 to 6 million Americans. When I was diagnosed with A-Fib over 30 years ago, very little treatment was known. Now it’s in the news almost every day. Read about my 35 year battle with A-Fib and other heart problems including 2 heart attacks, a robotic heart bypass, 3 pacemakers and an ablation.  Read my story: IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. Click here.

Besides the new Frick Heart Center, so much is going on in this field and much of it at OSU Ross Heart Hospital, as well as other major medical centers:

  • Heart doctors and engineers are collaborating to save lives at OSU Medical Center where they’re working together on a 3D printed aortic valve replacement. Cardiologists and engineers make 3D printed aortas and computer models that exactly match the patient’s anatomy.
  • Atrial Fib is the biggest contributor to strokes. Most A-Fib patients take a blood thinner to prevent this, but there are more factors involved. Genetics play a big part in stroke risk factors. Research groups from around the world are working together identifying new genetic risk factors.
  • Breaking up the clots that cause stroke damage before it occurs is being worked on. As it stands now, if a stroke victim gets to the hospital within an hour or 2, there’s a good possibility that the stroke damage can be repaired and do very little long-term damage. Research is now addressing protocols on doing the same within 24 hours of stroke occurrence. Learn symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately on feeling the symptoms and get to the hospital as quickly as possible.

Last week at the Ross Healing Hearts meeting our speaker was Electrophysiologist Dr. John Hummel, head of genetic heart studies and research. He spoke to a group of 139 members, the biggest crowd our meetings have ever attracted. He spoke for an hour holding the group at full attention, then answered questions for another hour.

His question to us was why only 30 per cent of all women with atrial fib get treatment while 70 percent of men diagnosed with A-fib get treated for the same problem.  Puzzling because treatment is readily availble.

IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib is now an audiobook as well as in paperback and E-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Kindle, Nook and Audio.com. Click on an icon below.

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes


Atrial Fib and Desserts

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on June 10, 2018.


Thirty five years with A-Fib and 10 years without it after an ablation. That’s 45 years of heart arrhythmia fear…more than half of my lifetime. Some of it has been controllable and some not. I’ve tried to follow the rules to be stronger and listen to the experts, the latest research and when in doubt, trust my instincts.

Diet, exercise, body maintenance and knowledge of what is being prescribed have led me to take charge of my own body. Collaborations and partnerships with doctors have given me the courage for my own convictions…one of which is to eat dessert! Not all desserts and not every day. Discipline comes with experience.

Recently I was asked to bring dessert to a small dinner party of friends. My standard ‘bring along’ dessert is meringues. I’m not a great cook, especially of complicated dishes, but quick and easy meringues are not complicated. They draw compliments and the plate of at least 24 for 4, 6 or 8 people is always gone at the end of the meal. Rarely have I indulged with the guests, until now.

One of the guests asked for the recipe whereupon when I gave it to him, he remarked that meringues are a heart healthy dessert…except for the smaller than average amount of sugar. I decided today to give you the recipe too.

MERINGUES:

  • Two egg whites in mixing bowl. It’s important that they are at room temperature.
  • ¼ tsp cream of tarter
  • ¾ cup of sugar (I use a little less)
  • Beat with electric mixer until egg whites are stiff
  • Add ½ tsp vanilla
  • Add one 11 or 12 oz. package of dark chocolate chips
  • Line cookie sheet with brown paper (I use 2 cookie sheets and cut up brown paper bags from grocery store).
  • Spoon onto cookie sheet. I put 12 to on each cookie sheet.
  • Pre-heat oven at 300 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and remove with spatula.

In damp climates meringue consistency may change from light and fluffy.

These meringues are especially delicious with the last sips of red wine from dinner. Don’t forget that dark chocolate is heart healthy and contains antioxidants. Exercise portion control. One or two is a healthy portion. More than that at one sitting is excessive. Read more about healthy foods IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib, a memoir. Click here.

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes


Atrial Fib: Your Pulse

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on December 3, 2017.


Last week’s blog about finding your pulse to know whether or not you’re in atrial fib left out one important factor. Thank you readers for alerting me that many patients don’t know what the average resting pulse rate should be. Besides being in a steady rhythm, the number of beats per minute at rest can vary for adults from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

So, if you take your own pulse at the inside of your wrist or on your neck to the side of your windpipe, check the second hand on your watch or clock and count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. If you count 15 beats that’s a rate of 60 beats per minute…a good number.

I take my pulse looking at the clock for a full minute because for years mine was irregular. It’s more accurate for a full 60 seconds. If your count is 20 beats in 15 seconds, that’s 80. Read more about that in my memoir, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

A lower resting heart rate of 40 to 50 beats per minute usually indicates a more efficient heart function. Often this implies cardiovascular fitness. During exercise the rate can climb to as high as 120 or more, but when exercise ceases, the resting rate should return. However, if the heart rate is constantly above 100 at rest or always below 50, you should consult your doctor.

I wear a pacemaker that controls my lowest heart rate. You and your doctor can decide on the  heart rate setting. My pacemaker is set at a heart rate of 60 beats per minute. When I exercise it goes as high as 80 or 90 and sometimes 100, but it never goes lower than 60. I cover that information in an earlier blog about pacemakers. Many factors influence heart rate and rhythm:

  • Activity level
  • Fitness level
  • Air temperature
  • Body position (standing up or lying down)
  • Emotions
  • Body size
  • Medications

It is documented that exercise is one of the best meds. Cardio workouts include elliptical, treadmill, spinning bike, rowing machine and sled. A picture of me pushing the sled is shown below. I used to do 100 pushups but since turning 80, my best is 50 with a 10 second rest at 25.

 

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes


A-Fib … Not a Death Sentence

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on March 10, 2018.


By guest blogger Lisa Eliason

Lisa Eliason has been a guest blogger here twice. Her blogs have attracted readers in all phases of A-Fib. Lisa’s heart problems, anxieties and solutions have mirrored mine. Maybe they will help you overcome yours. Here is her latest.


I was visiting my sister-in-law the first time I had an A-Fib episode. I said my good nights and retired to the bedroom. I was in bed for a few minutes when my heart started to race. I was alone and I knew exactly what was happening. I was experiencing atrial fibrillation.

My mother’s sister, whom I follow very closely genetically, had A-Fib and I had heard her talk of it. I debated whether to call my husband or wake my sister-in-law. I was scared. Finally I fell asleep repeating my childhood prayer, ‘If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.’

I awoke in the morning with no irregular heart beat that I could feel. I was only 57 years old.

Over the next several months I would experience more episodes. My family doctor thought stress was the culprit and wanted to prescribe anti-anxiety medication. During a minor surgery my heart started to race and the surgery was aborted. I awoke to the surgeon looking ashen and nurses frantically awaiting a cardiologist.

Over the next several months I saw numerous specialists and wore a Holter Heart Monitor but it didn’t catch the A-Fib episodes. Many times the episodes came at night when my husband was traveling for work. It was during those times that I was the most terrified and sure that this was a death sentence.

I repeated this to my aunt who assured me I was not going to die and recommended an electrophysiologist at Ross Heart Hospital, Dr. John Hummel. Dr. Hummel is the rock star of electrophysiologists. On my first visit he outlined two plans of action: medication to slow the heart rate or heart ablation surgery. I first chose the medication and at times my heart rate slowed to 35 beats per minute. On a subsequent visit I had a loop recorder surgically implanted to catch the A-Fib episodes, then decided on heart ablation surgery. The surgery was a success and I have been A-Fib free for three years.

The key to my success was knowledge. Knowledge is power. I studied A-Fib on my own and read blogs just like this. Perhaps the most important part of the journey was talking to someone else experiencing A-Fib and being assured that A-Fib was not the death sentence I thought it to be.


Thanks Lisa. Your information is so important.

You can also read IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib on audio books at Audible.com, Amazon.com or in paperback available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ebook from Kindle, Nook, iTunes or Kobo. Just click here or on one of the icons below.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes


A-Fib…Is Age a Factor?

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on August 14, 2017.


Can A-fib be an isolated incident, a sporadic episode or chronic?

 

Tomorrow I’ll be 80! I never thought I’d live this long, especially with all the health problems I’ve had since I was 15. Yet, I am better in every way than I was at 60. I judge life in decades. My 70s has been the best.

 

My first recognizable A-fib incident happened when I was 43, young by my standards. The next one was 2 years later. Both discoveries were accidental. I didn’t feel any of it until the instructor in an exercise class told us to take our pulse. I couldn’t find mine. The next time was in a doctor’s office for something unrelated. The 3rd time, almost a year later, I had what I thought were heart palpitations. All were A-fib.

 

That began the journey of dealing with A-fib for the next 30 years. Sometimes I could feel it in my pulse with beats going fast then slow then fluttering. Not able to get a count especially when it fluttered, I’d give up and try again a few minutes later. That routine went on for varied amounts of time…sometimes a couple of hours or a day or 2 days. I got scared.

 

It wasn’t until I was 69 that I had the cardiac ablation, then a relatively new procedure, that I’ve described and detailed in my memoir IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

 

I read that as people get to my age (80) many are candidates for A-fib. Then I read and hear that younger people are candidates too, men and women equally. Curing A-fib is less complicated than recovering or possibly dying from a stroke. Each day new developments make treatment easier and it is almost always successful.

 

At last I feel like a grown-up approaching the decade of my 80s. Finally I am learning to live in the here and now.

Learn more from my memoir IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes

A-Fib: Repairing the brain after a stroke. Is it possible?

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on August 27, 2017.


A few weeks ago an article on the front page of The Columbus Dispatch announced that a team of researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center had discovered a way of turning skin cells into any type of cell that the body may need. Though testing has only been completed on mice and pigs, growing new cells and inserting them into the wounded bodies of animals has produced healed limbs within 7 to 14 days.

The process has amazing potential from regenerating injured limbs to repairing the brain after a stroke (strokes can be caused by a-fib). Even healing a damaged heart will be possible. Imagine placing a square silicon chip the size of a fingernail on the skin as it receives genetic information, then zapping it with an energy source. Bingo! Within a given amount of time that limb or even tissue is healed.

Think of it from a military position. Soldiers could be healed on the battlefield.

Human testing is required before approval can be given by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration). Those trials are expected to take place within a year and the technology could be widely used within 5 years. This study has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Researchers who created the technology say it could even be used as a weapon against neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Dr. Chandan Sen, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell-Based Therapies at OSU Wexner Medical Center says, “With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch.”

Damage to my heart from 2 heart attacks was reversed and healed. It took a much longer period of time. Read about it IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial Fib, a patient’s story of surviving and thriving after 35 years of a-fib and related heart and health problems.

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes

A-Fib & Cardiac Ablation

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on July 24, 2017.


Reading the sports in the Columbus Dispatch I saw where baseball’s Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona would not be managing the American League All-Star team following a procedure to correct his irregular heartbeat.

He had a cardiac ablation performed after doctors detected a heart arrhythmia resulting in dizziness, fatigue and rapid heartrate. He’s only 58. The article never mentioned the words ‘atrial fibrillation’. In less than a week after the ablation, Francona was back at work.

The point is that A-Fib can happen to anyone…even to a leading sports figure at the young age of 58. Most of the publicity around atrial fib indicates that it’s an “old age” heart problem. It’s not. Mine was diagnosed at age 43. Maybe it was going on before and I didn’t feel it.

It wasn’t until years later that the cardiac ablation became a possible cure. I had that procedure in 2007 and it worked just like Terry Francona’s appears to be working.

Statistics show that A-Fib happens to as many women as men. Figures also show that 70% of men diagnosed with it get treatment. Only 30% of women diagnosed seek treatment. Why is that?

Regardless of gender, A-Fib patients are candidates for a debilitating stroke or death.

The cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive procedure. See for yourself in my memoir IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes

ATRIAL FIB: DOWNPLAYING YOUR SYMPTOMS

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on November 5, 2017.


Statistics show that 70% of men with atrial fib get treatment. Only 30% of women with atrial fib get treatment. Why is that?

My experience in talking to more than just a few women of various ages either with or without A-Fib or related problems say that they prefer not to know too much. Some do what the doctor says but don’t want to know the details and most don’t ask questions.

My theory is that the younger women are too busy. Some with families don’t feel they can take the time off to get treatment, some may feel invincible because their A-Fib comes and goes. I use to feel that way, mainly because I felt I couldn’t take the time off from work to get treatment. After all, I grew up in an era when options for women were limited. If a woman had a good job and could, if necessary, be replaced by a man, she was fearful that taking time off for a little known health problem could jeopardize her livelihood.

I am perplexed, however, as to why some women in their 70s and older don’t take A-Fib seriously. Many downplay their symptoms.

Men, on the other hand, are often diagnosed at a younger age. It is reported that gender symptoms vary and now treatment may vary between men and women. Could it be that women are the reason? We push men to take better care of themselves, sometimes at the expense of our own care. Wives often make an appointment with the doctor and just tell their husbands, “You have an appointment with the cardiologist and you have to go. I‘m going with you.” Subject closed.

Mother used to say, “Along with age comes aches and pains. Live with them and do what you have to do to feel better.” She was so set on not complaining, she’d say, “No one wants to hear you complain. Handle it.”

That was over 50 years ago. Ok Mom. I’m 80. I feel good. Atrial fibrillation is mostly an easy fix. I did it. Find out how in my memoir, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes


A-Fib and Pacemakers – Part 2

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on August 6, 2017.


Atrial fib is responsible for all 3 of my pacemakers. Each year, approximately 200,000 pacemakers are implanted in the U.S. in patients who derive a clear benefit from pacing therapy, according to the American College of Cardiology.

My first pacemaker was an emergency procedure because my heart stopped for several seconds after hip replacement surgery. Just before, a temporary pacemaker was installed to keep my heart rate steady during surgery. After the temporary pacemaker was removed I went into atrial fib. I awoke in ICU. The next day pacemaker # 1 was installed and my medical history changed…for the better.

  • My first pacemaker procedure was the longest because the 2 wires to connect the device to the heart had to be inserted, one in the right atrium and one in the right ventricle. A small incision was made just under the skin in the upper left chest to insert the pacemaker, about the size of a quarter. A technician from the device company (St. Jude) is always in the O.R. to hook up the wires to get it going. Most patients go home the same day but I was still recovering from hip surgery. Read details in Chapter 23 of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

 

  • Eight years later the 2nd pacemaker was installed. The whole device was changed, not just battery. The original wires connected the new device. Updates occur as pacemakers improve and accomplish more. This 2nd device was able to store heart data. Battery life and A-Fib activity were checked every couple of months by phone or in the clinic for a more thorough analysis

 

  • Implantation of the 3rd pacemaker came 9 years later. Outpatient procedure took 3 hours including prep and recovery time. The original wires are still being used. Battery and A-Fib information is now recorded at a data center and checked through a wireless monitor the size of a 5 x 7 picture frame 6 feet from my bed. A small green light signals that all is well. If not, the light flashes and changes color. There’s a phone number in case I have questions.

More advanced pacemakers are already available, including wireless pacemakers and some that allow patients to have safe MRI tests. Without the pacemaker my heart rate is so low in the atrium that my pacemaker must work to pace me 100% of the time.

It’s probably keeping me alive. If it could make dinner, life would be perfect!

Learn more from my memoir IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib

In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

Get the book here!
In a Heartbeat on AmazonIn a Heartbeat on Barnes and NobleIn a Heartbeat on KoboIn a Heartbeat on iTunes
In a Heartbeat on iTunes