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Atrial Fib … We Get Mail

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This blog was first published on July 29, 2018.


Today’s blog is a letter from a reader in San Francisco. With her permission I have reprinted it for atrial fib patients and their families to share and for readers of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. Mary has accomplished much by being an advocate for herself in managing her atrial fib and partnering with her doctors. Read what she has to say.

July 17, 2018

Hi Rosalie,

I just read your inspiring memoir of your struggles with afib and more besides and wanted to share my thoughts. I too have had a difficult journey, much of it very similar to yours, starting with atenolol and ending with the dreaded amiodarone, with all of the ‘ide’ drugs in between that either didn’t work or caused problems with the QT interval or the liver. The warfarin I didn’t mind as much and the ability to test at home makes a huge difference.

I now feel very fortunate that my afib was managed quite well by drugs up until a few years ago and the few episodes I had now and then weren’t quite as debilitating.

I have to say though that the 10 hour surgery to replace my valves and subsequent recovery was no picnic. I remember the pulmonary edema quite vividly. My hopes for fixing my afib were also dashed when the Maze procedure they performed at the same time did not work. Ablation was my only hope at that point.

I also saw another Electro Physiologist from Texas who had a monthly clinic in San Francisco. However, for various reasons, I ended up with my regular EPs at UCSF and I am glad I did. I was told frequently that my particular form of afib (both flutter and fib) was very complex and very challenging to ablate successfully.

They were very careful to set my expectations very low…50% was about as high as they would go. So of course it didn’t work and I scheduled another one. In the meantime I had to have my gall bladder out.

My second (and final they told me) ablation took place last September and lo and behold I stayed in sinus for 3 months. I finally went off amiodarone in December. I’ve only been on it for 5 years but was very nervous the whole time.

I was so glad to read that your ablation has worked for so long. I was told 2 years but I’m hopeful. I retired 3 years ago and have been exercising like a fiend. I can’t do push-ups yet but hope to one day. I’m told I’m quite tiny so no reason I can’t.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Thank you Mary.

I welcome any other readers and writers to guest blog about atrial fib and other heart issues. Send a message to me rosalie@rosalieungar.com.

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: Are You In Denial?

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This blog was first published on December 31, 2017.


I read that 130,000 people Google the term “atrial fib or atrial fibrillation” each month. Who are they? Some may have felt irregular heartbeats themselves or heart palpitations or have family members that have been diagnosed with A-Fib. If it doesn’t happen again for a long time do they forget about it? Maybe. Could it have happened again and they didn’t feel it? How many times? They’ll never know.

I don’t have answers to those questions. I am not a doctor. I can only tell you what happened to me when I first felt an “irregular heartbeat” at age 43 in the early 1980s. I took my pulse and couldn’t get a steady beat, so I stopped taking my pulse. A few hours later it was regular. A few months later I had my annual checkup and the doctor told me that I was in atrial fib.  “What’s that?” I asked. He said that it could cause a stroke. I had other unrelated health problems to worry about.

It happened again in my endocrinologist’s office. He made an appointment for me with a cardiologist. I was under her care for 20 years. It kept happening, more and more. Now I felt it.

Nothing could be done except to keep the blood thin to avoid a stroke and take anti-arrhythmia drugs that only partially worked. I was told that one doesn’t die from atrial fibrillation but that strokes can be fatal. Blood thinners were to be taken to keep the blood from clotting which can cause a stroke.

So, in the year 2000 when I had a heart attack, I was told that it was unrelated to my atrial fib. What’s more, further tests showed that I had previously had a smaller heart attack. I remembered it about 6 weeks earlier, intense pain in the middle of my chest, but it went away. I felt tired for days after. I didn’t call my doctor.

I had been in denial. I could have died. I didn’t know that living through a heart attack causes unrepairable damage to the heart muscle, diminishing its effectiveness. I had atrial fib and a damaged heart. New discoveries were made to help patients deal with A-Fib and even ablate it altogether. New devices were invented to control and eliminate A-Fib. More work is being done

I became an advocator and devoted myself to accepting and repairing my heart. I HAVE NOW REVERSED ALL HEART DAMAGE DONE BY THE HEART ATTACKS.  Here’s how I did it:

  • Paying attention to my medications, what they do, their side effects, compatibility with other drugs, asking questions and getting to know my pharmacists.
  • Starting an exercise program that has become part of my life at least 3 times a week.
  • Having a heart ablation procedure that eliminated electrical pathways causing A-Fib.
  • Continuing a heart healthy diet that began even before atrial fib.
  • Partnering and communicating with my doctors.

I had atrial fib for more than 35 years. Now I don’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t appear again. It started out slowly for me. It got worse as time went on. I check my pulse twice every day. Get treatment. It’s so much easier than dealing with a stroke.

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: How Do You Know?

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This blog was first published on November 26, 2017.


Take your pulse. Do you know how?  Could we learn from watching Law & Order on TV as detectives quickly check a body for a pulse? That’s tricky.

The question I get from readers or fellow A-Fib patients is, “How do you know if you’re in it?”

You don’t always, according to my doctors and from my own personal experiences. The first time I recognized what was known as ‘irregular heartbeat’ was when a fitness instructor told my class to cool down with a moderate walk while taking the pulse. I couldn’t find mine. When I did, it felt like a bird fluttering its wings. I was 43 years old. It was 1980. I was too young and full of energy to worry about it and didn’t think about it for a few years when it became noticeable.

I was lucky. It could have resulted in a stroke. Instead I got treatment from a cardiologist and later an electrophysiologist. That journey is documented in my memoir, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

My mother taught me how to take my pulse when I was a child. She was a nurses’ aide at a blood mobile during World War Two. More recently I’ve discovered that many people don’t know how to take their pulse, including a worker at an assisted living facility where I was giving a talk about my book.

The pulse can be checked at several places in your body. For me, it’s easiest to check at my wrist under the thumb by placing 2 fingers of the opposite hand between the bone and the tendon on the thumb side of the inside wrist. Never use your thumb because it has its own pulse that may interfere.

Other places for checking pulse and rhythms are high up on the neck between the neck and the ear (this is called the carotid pulse) and more difficult body parts such as top of the foot, the groin or behind the knee.

When you find your pulse, check the rhythm by counting the beats in a minute, so you need a watch or clock with a second hand. You can count the beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 or take it for a full 60 seconds.

If you want further proof that you have bouts of A-Fib, or for some who are in A-Fib all of the time and don’t feel it, discuss installing a ‘loop’ with your doctor.  My guest blogger, Lisa Eliason, wrote a blog about the loop on this website a few weeks ago.

The most reliable way to check is still the EKG, which is usually available in a clinic or physician’s office.

I had atrial fib for more than 35 years. Now I don’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t appear again. It started out slowly for me. It got worse as time went on. I check my pulse twice every day. Get treatment. It’s so much easier than dealing with a stroke.

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 … Details

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.


At a Healing Hearts meeting earlier this year, an audience member approached me about a problem she was having with her electrophysiologist. She’s a regular at these monthly meetings and she had read my book, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib, a memoir  that covers my 35 years with atrial fibrillation. This is my story which focuses a great deal on patient/doctor relationships. I am not a doctor and this is not a medical book.

The woman from Healing Hearts had also heard me speak, together with my electrophysiologist, at more than one of these meetings. Many years younger than I am, she asked me in a private conversation what I would suggest she do about her electrophysiologist with whom she was having a difficult time communicating and with whom she was losing confidence. She wanted to change physicians and was afraid. At this point she considered changing hospitals.

This is a subject that other readers had inquired about. I suggested that so long as she is being treated at a major heart hospital she not change hospitals, but that she seriously consider changing her electrophysiologist. Most of the time the doctor is aware that there is a communication problems and is agreeable to the change. He or she may suggest or recommend another one. It so happens that at our heart hospital there is an ample staff of skilled physicians in cardiology and electrophysiology.

In making a change, here are my suggestions, but first do your homework:

  • Know exactly what your own heart problem is and what your options could be to correct or maintain good health. Know your own heart history and other physical problems that could be related as well as past surgeries or procedures.
  • Know what medications you are taking by both generic and branded names and why you are taking them. Know the dosage and look up on line their side effects and compatibility with other meds you take, what time of day you take them and what happens if you miss a dose or stop taking them. You should carry a list of them with you at all times. You can do it as an app on your phone, or a printed list in your wallet.
  • Know your own body and what you put into it. Be honest. Take someone with you on your appointments as another set of ears. Document your questions and the answers you receive.
  • Look up on the hospital website all the doctors in the category. Get familiar with them first by reading about them and if you have heard them speak or know others that go to them, do some inquiring.
  • If you are afraid to speak directly to the doctor you wish to replace, confide in a pleasant manor with one of your other doctors or nurses about your dilemma. Ask them to  direct you in how to make an easy change. Possibly one of the others will intervene for you.

My friend who approached me about making a change has done so. I saw her at last month’s Healing Hearts meeting. She was smiling as she told me that she replaced the electrophysiologist with someone on staff that is satisfactory and the change in medications recently prescribed makes her feel better and that she has been scheduled for an ablation for atrial fib. I hope to see her at next month’s meeting. I’ll let you know how it works out.

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 … Managing Your Maintenance

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.


Last Wednesday I turned 81 and I’m still celebrating, at least for another week according to my calendar of scheduled events. Changes occur every day–physically, emotionally, mentally and in the world around us. Some are good; others not so good. Regardless, attitude and energy levels are important and both are somewhat controllable.

Age is related to time. It used to be that I rarely looked back. I was too busy living in the present and looking to the future. Now looking back affects my future. The 35 years I suffered with atrial fibrillation and taking control of what to do about it is key, as is how I managed other heart and health problems.

Priorities have changed, even within the last year when I turned 80. The December 17, 2017, blog that I wrote on this website is about just that. To review it, click on the link to the blog, Atrial Fib…Managing Heart Health & Taking Control.

I have revised some priorities, added some and revisited others:

  1. Sleep is at the top of the list: 7 to 9 hours per night. Uninterrupted is nice but not always possible if bathroom visits are necessary and waking up 2 hours after falling asleep, not being able fall back to sleep is another. Possible aides:
    • Clear your mind to nothingness. Sometimes middle-of-the-night thoughts are dangerous and more intense than the same thoughts would be in the daytime.
    • A short cat nap during the day keeps you from napping in the evening after dinner before going to bed for the night and finding it difficult to fall asleep.
    • I take the non-addictive over the counter medication Melatonin sometimes, not every night. My doctor suggested it in 3 or 5 mg. dose. Try to get it in time- released capsule. No prescription necessary. I am not a doctor and would never prescribe for anyone else. This is what helps me sometimes and on the directions which I read word-for-word it says that user will get 7 hours of sleep with no sleep hangover in the morning.
    • Keep your tech devices off during the night.
    • Try to keep intake of fluids at night to a minimum, if you can. I take some meds at night and water is necessary, especially for the heart medications.
  2. Exercise is important but I have changed much of it as a result of structural problems in the lower back and lower digestion organs…perhaps all are related to aging and genetics. Currently I am concentrating on stretching 2 to 3 times per day…upon waking, before going to sleep and sometime mid-day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
  3. I am looking into starting Yoga and/or Palates soon.
  4. I have cut out all alcohol, but am not recommending this to others. I had Hepatitis A as a teenager. It is the mildest form of the disease but still in the blood. Though it doesn’t really affect the liver, it could. Because of that I stopped having my one glass of wine each night. I don’t miss it though I do indulge on special occasions, like my birthday.

Above all LOVE LIFE and read more about it 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.

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 Sleep

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.


It has come to my attention that sleep is getting a lot of attention lately. Not only to maintain good physical health, but mentally and socially too. When I was in my thirties and in a workaholic stage, sleep was supposed to be sacrificed in order to get the job done and to have a social life. How many students pull an all-nighter to prepare for an exam or turn in a paper or meet a deadline?

What about traveling from one time zone or another and ignoring that you’ve just lost 3 hours or 6 hours or even 12 hours? When you get to your destination during the work day, it’s expected that you start working even if it’s 3 hours earlier than the time zone you just left, plus another 6 hour difference counting the time it took to get to the destination.

Can we make up for lost sleep? Some people can, I am told. Youth has its advantages. Maybe that’s why being a parent to infants is easier in one’s twenties or thirties,

Sleep has a healing mechanism. Sometimes it’s the best medication for preventing disease, recovering from an illness or maintaining good health. As we age it becomes more important but more difficult to manage. The charts now stipulate that as adults we should have 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. It used to be that bedtime was sleep time and 7 or 8 hours after the head hit the pillow to wake up and feel great. In that case I awoke but never just jumped out of bed. I like to wake up slowly and get out of bed at least 20 minutes later.

Now, however, 2 hours after falling asleep I wake up even though my last thought before closing my eyes is that the next time I open them will be at least 7 hours later. It rarely happens that way, but when it does, I feel like magic the whole next day. I’m trying all the suggestions for good sleep therapy

Two of my previous blogs deal with sleep: Atrial Fib and The Nap and Atrial Fib and Sleep Apnea, written by guest blogger Lisa Eliason. You may want to read them again. Here are their links:  Atrial Fib and The NapAtrial Fib and Sleep Apnea

For more about heart issues and atrial fib, don’t forget to get your copy of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib in paperback, eBook or audio book on Audible.com, Amazon, iTunes, Kindle or Nook.

Future blogs will include more about sleep and some wake up news about genetics.

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 … Know Your Numbers!

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was originally posted on May 27, 2018.


My semi-annual meds check appointment at The Ross Heart Hospital took place a few days ago. It’s necessary mainly because of the sotalol medication I take for atrial fib. The drug has side effects but it and the ablation I had has kept me out of A-Fib for 11 years…so far.

The twice yearly meds check event goes like this: weight check, blood pressure, pulse and respiration check and an EKG. Then the discussion between the Pharmacologist and me; dosages and results from tests taken during the last meds check; changes resulting in lowering some doses because of my 40 pound weight loss. I was dismissed and sent to the lab for an up-to-date blood test including Lipid Panel (full cholesterol check).

Recalling a conversation with the endocrinologist several years ago, I was informed that the biggest change in aging health comes between the ages of 75 and 85. Soon I’ll be 81 and all the recent test numbers are better than I can remember in many years including cholesterol: LDL 52, HDL 55, Triglycerides 56 and Non-HDL Cholesterol 63.

What does all this mean? Constant Maintenance. It takes a lot of time and uses a lot of energy…the one thing that diminishes with age. Outer body checkup shows blood pressure at 137/66, weight 125, height 5’5”, BMI 20.80 (body mass index or body fat), respiration 16 and pulse 59 (with pacemaker set at 60).  Not too bad for almost 81.

What to do to maintain acceptable good health while aging:

  • Get plenty of sleep. Try to get in at least one short nap a day.
  • Don’t overeat. Along with this, try to eat healthy food so as not to get full on empty calories. Small meals. I find that it’s not so much what you eat, but how much…portion control!
  • Eat slowly, put eating utensils down between bites to slow eating pace. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to know that the stomach is full.
  • Exercise! Just moving the body can do it. Getting out of bed in the morning may take some adjustment and movement until the body parts (legs, back and neck) adjust to being vertical. I have gone from 100 pushups and other strenuous exercise last year to 8 minutes of stretching each morning that I learned online and in a pamphlet from the Chiropractor’s office.
  • Walking is a wonderful exercise. At the gym I do some stretching then 5 minute intervals on the treadmill. Try it.

Most of all, create your own state of mind. Be happy.

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 … Stay Fit: Train, Not Pain

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.


Exercise is important in managing A-Fib. I’ve written several blogs about exercise. For the last fifteen years (since age 65, now approaching 81), I’ve done pretty strenuous work outs at least 3 times per week. Even before that age I did something to keep my body in shape…mainly walking 4 miles in an hour 4 or 5 times per week. You can read more about exercise in my memoir, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

The phrase, “no pain, no gain” was a guide to how much I could do…100 pushups, a 3 minute plank, spinning bike, weights and more. I had several different personal trainers over the years. They were all good and made it possible for me to manage my atrial fib, my other chronic physical problems and maintain a lifestyle fit for someone much younger. I credit exercise for the reason I was able to reverse heart damage from the 2 heart attacks I suffered at age 62.

Two hip replacements are still in place since they were completed 20 years ago. I chalk this up to exercise and building muscle around the hip joints to protect them. Any pain I felt after exercising went away later in the day. I actually wore that pain as a badge of honor and am glad that I did.

When it was time to change my exercise routine, I knew it. I wear my age proudly and know that change is vital in everything we do. Harboring regrets and festering depression over getting older uses too much energy—energy that I need and want to use on positive movements and acceptance of fun things that I like. New experiences, new friends…even an afternoon nap are part of most days.

I still exercise. Because I am fit and energetic, I can do exercises every day that will keep me that way. Sometimes I do them twice a day. They all relate to stretching. The chiropractor and his qualified staff who assisted in treating minor back problems instructed me in what to do and for how long. Also, telling me that if it hurts, don’t do it, or minimize it. Low impact cardio is good. I’m back to walking, not a 15 minute mile for an hour. I prefer a treadmill but walking outside in good weather is ok. However, I find sidewalks and paths are sometimes too uneven. My balance is not so good, so it’s necessary to be cautious and pay attention…always.

Don’t forget to exercise your brain. I play brain games with myself to remember names and things from the recent past. Sometimes it’s easier to remember details from the long ago past than from the recent past. Make plans with friends and relatives and schedule some activity you like doing each day. Reward yourself with sitting and watching TV for a limited amount of time or playing solitaire on your computer for a half hour: Read, play bridge or a board game. Then, get up and move around. Train, not pain!

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


Heart Disease and Diminishing Diabetes

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

“Guess what?” my younger cousin Becky asked; “I just came from my doctor and he said that I don’t need medication for diabetes anymore.”

I can picture her jumping up and down with glee. I couldn’t get over it. I’d never heard of reversing diabetes. I thought it got worse as we age. I felt like jumping up & down for her.

Above are photos of Becky. The one on the right was taken 6 years ago on her 60th birthday at her first Arnold Classic Sports Competition in Columbus. The other one was taken 20 years before when she was diagnosed with diabetes.

Becky’s mother was a diabetic. Becky also has a history of heart problems. Her father, my first cousin, had a history of heart problems. I’ve written several blogs about health and genetics. There’s no dispute any longer that they are related.

She used to be overweight. Not any more as you can see. I used to be overweight. I often heard that regular exercise diminishes the appetite. It did for me and it did for Becky, but not for either of us without knowledge and counseling and over time, making both diet and exercise a habit. Sometimes it takes years.

I’ve lost 40 pounds over the last 5 years. I‘m not diabetic. I don’t exercise everyday anymore but I do stretching twice a day. For being 80 I’m in good managed health and can get up from a floor position without help. The only aches and pains I have are from arthritis which is lessened from stretching.

Both of us are food disciples of not only what to eat, but portions. Portion control is half the battle. Eating too little can also be a problem. Exercise has been touted as the best medication of all. Both need to be taught and tracked.

Twenty years ago I had 2 heart attacks. Heart attacks cause heart muscle damage. It’s rare to reverse damage done to the heart muscle. Nine years ago I was informed by doctors that tests (echo cardiograms) show that I have reversed heart muscle damage and there is no evidence of heart attack damage any longer. Guess how it happened.

Find out in Chapter 20, specifically on page 193 of my memoir IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. Just click here or on one of the icons below.  You might want to click on iTunes or Audible.com icons for your audiobook version.

I asked Becky for permission to use her story and photos on this blog. She quickly agreed by saying that if this information can help even one person, it’s a blessing. Thanks Becky.

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 … When is a stroke not life threatening?

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.


Atrial fibrillation patients read this: Strokes may not be life threatening…in the future.

Clinical trials are underway in Columbus, Ohio, to remove blood clots in patients whose stroke symptoms started as many as 24 hours before. Trial participants see overwhelming positive results that could lead to changes and save hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world.

Immediately, I put myself into such a situation as I recalled a conversation with my electrophysiologist 5 years ago. It was in his office during my annual checkup 6 years after my ablation to eliminate 30 years of atrial fib and 5 electrical pathways that needed to be ablated. I stayed on warfarin for a year-and-a-half after the ablation at which point my electrophysiologist reluctantly eliminated it from my list of meds. I had been on that blood thinner for 12 years and atrial fib free for 5 years.

When I turned 75 years of age and was feeling terrific, better than I’d felt in 20 years, I related this info to my doctor and told him I was writing a book about my 35 years of life with atrial fib. Sheepishly he said he wanted to put me back on a blood thinner. I looked at him through squinting eyes. “Why?” I asked. “I don’t want to take a blood thinner,” I said.

He told me that there is a point system for A-Fib patients and that 4 points is the median. Because I am over 75 gives me 2 points and being a woman is 1 point.

“That’s only 3 points. I don’t want to take a blood thinner even if it isn’t warfarin. I haven’t had atrial fib for 6 years, I eat a heart healthy diet, I exercise, my cholesterol numbers are good and even though there are more choices for blood thinners, I don’t want it.”

He told me that I am still a candidate for a stroke.

I asked him, “What are the symptoms of a stroke? Will I know I‘m having one at the time?”

He told me that I would and that stroke symptoms aren’t subtle. I would have 1, maybe 2 hours to get to the hospital to break it up or remove the clot.

“A side effect of the blood thinner you recommend, a brain bleed, is rare. Nevertheless I’ve had rare side effects before. I choose not to take the blood thinner. ”

A compromise was at hand. With that, my electrophysiologist wrote a prescription for a new- to-the- market blood thinner. He didn’t date it and asked me to carry it in my wallet wherever I went. If I go into atrial fib for 6 hours or more, I should get the prescription filled and contact his office. I promised that I would.

That was 6 years ago.  No atrial fib so far. Each year he gives me a new prescription for apixaban. Last year he also gave me a coupon for 2 free weeks of the drug. Next month I’ll be 81. I feel great. A 24 hour window between the beginning and the road to recovery of a stroke will be amazing.

Read my memoir for more about this:  IN A HEARTBEAT, The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib

Buy it from my website: www.rosalieungar.com. Now on audio book too, click on one of the icons 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