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ATRIAL FIB: FIND A SUPPORT GROUP

Suppose you are all alone and you feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest. You don’t know what’s happening. You ask yourself: Is this what they call heart palpitations? You sit down and try to catch your breath. It’s difficult. Your breath is coming fast and in short spurts.  You’ve seen dozens of TV commercials about A-Fib and blood thinners, showing middle age men and women together riding bikes, taking walks, holding hands advertising blood thinners with names you can’t pronounce. Minutes go by then it stops. You feel better. Your breathing goes back to normal. Then, you forget about it…until the next time it happens.

That could be atrial fib also known as atrial fibrillation or A-Fib or AF. It’s an arrhythmia that can cause strokes.

I had it for 35 years. A-Fib came and left and lasted sometimes for minutes then hours and sometimes days. I don’t have A-Fib anymore, or I haven’t for the last 10 years. It didn’t go away by itself. It was a difficult journey that included 2 heart attacks and 3 pacemakers and a wonderful team of electrophysiologists, cardiologists and other partners in medicine that handle related medical problems. All of them keep me in good health with a lifestyle better than I ever dreamed for an 80 year old.

How did I get to this point? It’s called maintenance. Choose your team with care and knowledge. A-Fib is an electrical problem of the heart. Start with an electrophysiologist and a cardiologist.  Ask questions and be educated in new techniques and meds. Talk to others with similar problems. FIND A SUPPORT GROUP.

I belong to 2 heart support groups. Healing Hearts of Central Ohio meets each month at the Ross Heart Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. After a quick heart healthy supper starting at 6 PM, we talk to each other about our problems and treatments then watch and listen to one or two doctors who specialize in caring for the heart. Talks cover subjects like atrial fib and heart rhythm devices, heart failure, valve problems, congestive heart failure, heart transplants, nutrition, exercise, by-pass surgeries, care givers, medications, and sleep apnea.

Yes, sleep apnea goes along with atrial fib. It’s more likely to appear in men. Does gender play a part in atrial fib studies? Yes, but studies change and new information and managed cures are happening all the time.

I learned an interesting theory in the Pour Your Heart Out support group meeting that I attended last week. Dr. John Hummel, my electrophysiologist and hero, was one of the speakers. When a question from the audience was asked as to why there are so few female electrophysiologists, it was suggested that it’s because of the constant radiation and women in their child-bearing years are very careful not to be exposed to radiation.

Learn more IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib available at all book stores in paper back and ebook and soon an audiobook on Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon. Meanwhile, I invite any of the blog readers interested in the topic of atrial fibrillation to contact me to guest blog on this website. I would be happy to guest blog on other related blogs. Contact me at rosalie@rosalieungar.com. Click here to visit the Healing Hearts of Central Ohio website.

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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

A-Fib: NOT ALWAYS THE ONLY PROBLEM

Lisa Eliason is today’s guest blogger. Several weeks ago she wrote a 2 part blog about Atrial Fib & the Loop, a minimally invasive device that tracks and records episodes of atrial fib. Her blog this week describes other medical issues that occurred at the same time, not unusual as we age and discover genetics play a big part in our health and that managing all of our issues can make aging a time of greater enjoyment. Here is Lisa’s blog:


My health decline began in 2011 when I was 57. I started experiencing shortness of breath. Then came heart arrhythmia and sleep apnea. Sinus issues followed with almost constant congestion and infections. Then the atrial fib again. I also had a bevy of auto immune ailments that included a bout with Shingles, a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash.

Physically I started experiencing pain in the groin. I now know that was the beginning of my journey toward hip replacement. However, at that time, the diagnosis was a pulled groin muscle. Physical therapy helped me.

By 2014 I was a physical mess. I took the ‘bull by the horns’ and researched my ailments. The first thing was to take control of my diet. One book advocated cutting out 7 inflammatory foods. I did that and the nasal congestion lessened while the auto immune issues went away. I lost 40 pounds and started walking 2 miles a day.

I had a cardiac ablation. It was successful. The sleep apnea went away. No more atrial fib. I had 2 good years, and then in 2016 when I was walking 4 miles a day, I came down hard on the left leg causing pain in my piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region. Physical therapy did help. I know that it was my hip, not my groin.

In 2017 I came down hard on my weakened left leg again. I informed the doctor that my brother, who is 12 years younger, had both hips replaced at age 40. An x-ray showed severe osteoarthritis in my left hip and moderate in the right. The left hip is bone on bone. Two different doctors said I am headed toward hip replacements.

I wasn’t shocked by the diagnosis. The shock came after a routine blood test when I learned that I am pre-diabetic. My brother has diabetes. Genetics again.

Perhaps if I hadn’t taken such good care of myself in my 40s and 50s, I would have faced new health issues sooner.

Being aggressive about my health issues, I recognize they are not going to fix themselves. Neither will a pill. I’m going to get that hip replaced now so that I can get back to my exercise. I have been proactive and that has made all of the difference. Attitude is everything!


Thank you Lisa for your contribution. Read more about multiple health issues 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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

A-FIB: BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE

Readers write, email and stop me at meetings and conferences where I’m speaking or attending. They talk to me about IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

The comment I get from them, both men and women, is that they now ask more questions of their doctors and don’t stop until they are satisfied that they understand the answers.

A reader from Chicago writes: “I too have a-fib. The pacemaker keeps the heart from going too low and the meds take care of the a-fib. Right now the meds are my enemy. My doctor cut them in half. I still have skipped heart beats, shortness of breath and other reactions. I have an appointment coming up. I won’t nod as though I know exactly what he is saying. I will ask questions. That is just one of many things I have learned from your book.”

Pay attention to your body. Partner with your doctor, but do it from a point of strength and educate yourself. It’s easy. Get to know the Google button on your computer. Search for a keyword or book.  For example, Google ‘books on atrial fib’, or all books and/or articles on a fib, atrial fibrillation, irregular heartbeats, heart arrhythmia and heart palpitations.

Choose what you want to read online. Some of the articles are ads. Many will be promoting meds.

About meds: Know what you are taking by both its brand name and its generic name. Know what it’s for, what its side effects are, how it may or may not be compatible with other meds and over the counter meds you take, what time of day to take it and what to do if you miss a dose. Your doctor may be impressed in the interest and effort you have taken to learn about your problem and realize that you want to help her or him help you.

Another reader writes: “Your book sends a very concise message…pay attention to your body…research the professionals who treat you and read about all medications, how they interact and their side effects. Don’t be afraid to ask providers to justify their treatment plans.”

Looking up bios of health care providers is very interesting. When you mention to your doctor that you checked her or him out online, it’s one more thing that shows you are taking an interest in your own care.

Check out more reviews and blogs on my Amazon author page for IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups and 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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

ATRIAL FIB: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT – PART 2

I had a heart attack while giving a speech about heart healthy foods to 25 men and women in the food industry. I was 63 with an active history of atrial fib, but was assured by doctors treating me that the heart attack and my atrial fib had nothing to do with each other.

That was the year 2000. Seventeen years later it has been proven that the 2 are related. So are many other human ailments. Among them are diabetes and diverticulosis both of which are related to heart problems of all kinds and to what foods we put into our bodies.

Though never having had diabetes, I have suffered this past year from bouts of diverticulitis. Loosely translated, it is the active form of a chronic condition called diverticulosis which forms bulging pockets in the digestive tract. It assures me that I must now be doubly careful so that what I eat, how much I eat and when I eat will allow me to sleep without discomfort, heart burn or intestinal spasms.

What is a heart healthy diet? It varies as we find out more information about new discoveries and genetics. For me it’s a combination of Weight Watchers™ and the Mediterranean Diet of eating.

Make sure that portion control is key and that artificial ingredients are none or almost none. Read labels. Use small plates. Take only one portion servings at each meal. Eat slowly putting your fork down between bites. Chew, don’t swallow food whole. Pay attention to what and how you are eating. Stop before you get full. The head doesn’t know the stomach is full for 20 minutes. You won’t know you’ve overeaten until after you’ve overeaten. Then, it’s too late.

I am active in several heart organizations, some local, some national and some related to The Ross Heart Hospital at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. HEALING HEARTS OF CENTRAL OHIO (www.healingheartscentralohio.org) meets monthly and features speakers on all phases of heart issues.

The next meeting is Wednesday, October 18th at The Ross Heart Hospital Auditorium from 6 PM to 8 PM. The guest speaker is Nutritionist James Warner, Program Director, Food and Nutrition at OSU. He’ll speak on “Nutrition and a Heart Healthy Diet.” A light meal is provided as is a parking pass for the attached garage. Come join us if you are in the Central Ohio area. Details and RSVP information are here.

See you there. Meanwhile, check out more info 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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

ATRIAL FIB: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Mother used to say, “You are what you eat.” She didn’t know that it was a direct quote from Frenchman Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826. Literally translated it says, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

Mother’s quote was in the 1940s and 50s when our family sat down together at the kitchen table for a meal that was prepared by my mother. This was typical at that time, at least in the small town where I grew up. Eating habits were established, portions were smaller and no meal was complete unless it included a salad with raw veggies, an entrée with meat, chicken or fish, a potato, rice or pasta and a cooked vegetable canned or fresh.  This was before frozen foods were readily available.

Dessert may have been served, but it wasn’t a big deal. Mother didn’t bake a lot, so we had canned fruit cocktail and store-bought cookies. We drank water with the meal except in summer when we made lemonade by squeezing lemons and an orange, water, sugar, ice and mint sprigs from our yard.

We were healthy possibly because most of what we ate was fresh and portions were smaller than today and because very few chemicals were added for flavor and preserving.

I was on my way to a healthy lifestyle of eating but along the way things changed for all of us.

Early in my 35 year affliction with atrial fib when it began to interfere with my lifestyle in the 1980s, I realized that I had absolutely no control over when AF came or left. I could wake in the morning with it or start the weird heart rhythm in the middle of doing something or nothing at all.

I had no idea how long it would last or why. As time went on I could tell I was in A-fib right away. Heart palpitations and a feeling of tiredness and gloom settled in me. My electrophysiologist said that atrial fib begets atrial fib.

Was it something I ate or something I didn’t eat? I thought I knew a lot about nutrition. I followed what was then a heart healthy diet.

I remembered from my childhood and current job that what food and drink we put into our bodies has a lot to do with how we feel and what chronic problems may occur. This was about the time that cholesterol and fat were in everyone’s vocabulary to avoid. I was employed as a sales manager for a food company marketing a line of Weight Watchers dairy items, later doing the same for the Smart Balance line.

I lectured all over the country about good fats, low fats, hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, poly unsaturated fats and ratios between the two. Hence, the Smart Balance products became quite popular.

My atrial fib was coming more often. I decided to eliminate some foods from my diet. No more steak or beef of any kind. More vegetables. Less sugar. Reading food labels, I cut out foods containing ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce. Nothing helped.

I asked my cardiologist about food and atrial fib. She told me to cut out caffeine and alcohol. I did, but that wasn’t easy. Ed and I had a glass of wine or a drink almost every night with dinner. I stopped drinking totally. Still the A-fib came. I tested it: Occasionally I had a glass of wine and nothing happened, but the next time I had one, the atrial fib started.

This Part 1. Atrial Fib…You Are What You Eat” will continue in next week’s blog.

Meanwhile, read more 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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

ATRIAL FIB: Managing Your Meds

Chances are that those diagnosed with atrial fib, or any heart related problem, are taking medication(s). Many of us have other health problems for which we take more meds and some of us take supplements as well.

Managing them can be a full time job…an important one. A friend of mine once told me that she was tired of taking pills. She decided to take Sundays off from her meds.

When asking others what specific medications or medications in general they take, I have often heard from them, “I don’t know. The doctor told me to take it. So, I do.”

I have a tough time understanding this philosophy. I am not a doctor. Having health issues for most of my 80 years, none of my issues are cured. They are managed because I want to be in charge. I credit my doctors who partner with me and I ask a lot of questions.

Here are some suggestions to help manage meds:

    • Ask your doctor what the prescriptions he recommends are for precisely. What is the brand name and is there a generic available for that drug? Example: Eliquis, a blood thinner is also known as its generic version apixaban.

 

    • What are its side effects?

 

    • How often and what time of day should it be taken? (Some heart meds are suggested to be taken at night before bed.)

 

    • Is it compatible with other meds, even supplements? Also, ask your pharmacist this question. If not compatible, would a waiting period before taking other meds with it be advised?

 

    • What if you miss a dose? This can be avoided if you schedule your meds by week and by day using a Sunday thru Saturday pill box for each day of the week. I have 3 such pill boxes and fill them for a 3 week cycle. This also helps you keep track of when you will run out and can judge reordering.

 

    • On a budget? By sorting meds for 3 weeks, you can schedule ordering to coincide with your payment needs. Many pharmaceutical companies have coupons available and help patients with other needs. Check this out on the internet. Above all, partner with your doctors, be in charge and make friends with your pharmacist.

 

All of this and more is covered with detail IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib, the memoir that reads like a novel.

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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

ATRIAL FIB & THE LOOP:  Part 2

Part 1 of Atrial Fib & the Loop was written last week by guest blogger Lisa Eliason. This week’s blog follows Lisa’s personal journey after agreeing to have the loop inserted.

My loop went in in 2012 and came out in 2015 when the battery was about to expire. The procedure was much like that of a pacemaker being inserted. Back in 2012, the loop was the size of a zip drive, about two inches long. The surgery was minor and I went home the same day. I could feel it under my skin. The loop was implanted just left of the breast bone.

The device I used to call in my readings was the size of a small DVD player. I had to call in the readings once a month. I plugged the device into a land line and held a small paddle up to my breast. I pushed the button and my heart activity for the month was sent over the phone line to a company that reported the activity to Dr. Hummel’s office. I pushed another button and the loop activity for the month was cleared from the device.

This was the time when everyone was starting to have their land lines removed. We had just had ours removed and we only used cell phones. My biggest challenge with the loop recorder was to find a friend with a land line. The internet land line wouldn’t work nor would the land line from my office that required me to dial “7” to get an outside line. I became very skilled at finding friends and family with a land line.

Now the loop recorder is much smaller and the heart activity can be sent in over a cell phone.

When I look back on my journey with A-Fib, the best decision I made was to have the loop inserted. The worst was to wait for two years to have the ablation surgery. The ablation procedure worked for me.

Thanks go to Lisa Eliason for sharing her information about the loop. We hope she’ll share more guest blogs.  Meanwhile, stay with us next week for my blog on managing meds.  Read more 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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

ATRIAL FIB & THE LOOP

This is part 1 of a guest blog written by Lisa Eliason of Athens, Ohio.

My personal journey with A-Fib began on March 21, 2012 when I awakened from an aborted sinus procedure to find nurses and doctors rushing around me to make way for the cardiologist. My husband stood at the side of the bed looking ashen. He quickly explained that as soon as I was given the anesthetic my heart went out of rhythm and began to beat quickly and erratically. I was distraught over not having the surgery, but not surprised by the arrhythmia.

For the last year I had been telling my family doctor that I had irregular heartbeats off and on, mostly at night, and never during exercise. My doctor wanted to prescribe medication for my stressful job. He never took the irregular heart beat seriously.

After this incident, I saw a local doctor who prescribed medication that caused my heart rate to slow, at times, to thirty-five beats a minute.

Family members talked me into going to Ross Heart Hospital to see Dr. John Hummel. I describe Dr. Hummel to my friends as the rock star of electrophysiologists.

Dr. Hummel gave me all my options from medication to ablation surgery. Ablation surgery sounded so serious so I tried the medication option first.

I was also required to wear the Holter monitor and found out the hard way that I was allergic to latex. I suffered with “bulls-eye” welts for several days after.  Dr. Hummel suggested the loop* recorder to keep track of my irregular heart rhythm. I can remember asking him if he had heart arrhythmia, would he have the loop inserted. His answer was an unequivocal “yes”.

*The implantable loop recorder (ILR) is a single-lead electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring device used for diagnosis with recurrent unexplained episodes of palpitations or irregular heart rhythms known as atrial fib.

Read more from guest blogger Lisa Eliason and her experiences in Part 2 of Atrial Fib & the Loop in next week’s blog on this website: rosalieungar.com. Click on 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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

Atrial-Fib….Read or listen?

Would you rather hear a story or read a story? Millions of readers are choosing audio books over eBooks and some choosing audio books over paper back or hard cover.

IN A HEARTBEAT, my memoir about thriving and surviving with atrial fib, will be available in audio book very soon on iTunes, Audible.com and Amazon. Easily available on smart phones and tablets, it is read by a professional narrator and for my readers who, for health reasons, prefer listening, or those on a long commute, stuck in a waiting room or on the treadmill, it can make every minute count.

Some readers have the same audio book on more than one device syncing their place in the story on all devices in case they are listening in different locations. Many choices.

I used to get ‘books on tape’ for listening in the car on road trips or work trips. A few years later as cars dispensed with audio tape equipment, cars came with CD equipment and audio books were on CDs or for CD players, another device that required a bulky player and the CD.

Then came the smart phone. According to the Association of American Publishers audio is the fastest growing format for books, generating over $600 million in sales last year. The numbers of people owning smart phones is staggering.

Members of my family have become audio book addicted, listening to 2 or more books a week. I’ve even heard from publishers who only read by listening to audio books. It’s faster, convenient and makes learning easier.

I’ll let you know more when IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial Fib is in audiobook. It sounds like an adventure story. It is an adventure story.

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.
Soon available as audio book.

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

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

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.
Soon available as audio book.

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