There is no cure for AFib

No, there aint no cure for AFib, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. I know that’s a bad sample of the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, but it’s true.

I would call what I have paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF or just AF); sudden, irregular, infrequent episodes of AF. Since I was in the hospital, I’ve felt that I may not be able to get back to the way I was at 20 years old, but I should be able to reverse some of the effects on my body that I put there by poor lifestyle. In the hospital I was given two choices (the third was do nothing): drugs and/or ablation. I didn’t want either. I’ve always been a believer that lifestyle is a major factor in our health.

I opted for the drugs because they started them in the hospital, and they may have been why the AF episode stopped; I see them like aspirin “stops” a headache – it may or may not go away on its own. The other option – ablation – is an out patient surgical procedure to try and burn the electrical spots on the heart that cause AF in the first place. That sounds a little scary. Again, lifestyle first, drugs second, surgery third.

My cardiologist (I can’t believe I’m saying that at age 44) was the one that gave me the options. He also said he would not be the one to do the ablation. Ablations are done by a cardiac electrophysiologist.

Dr. John Mandrola, a cardiac electrophysiologist in Louisville, Kentucky, had this to say about ablation:

In the short-term, I use temporizing measures to relieve AF symptoms: drugs for rate control, anticoagulants for stroke prevention, and maybe even cardioversion with or without anti-arrhythmic drugs. The key is that these treatments are temporary. We aren’t shocking or medicating an AF patient with the idea that this is the fix; we are doing those things to buy time for risk factor management to work. And it does. I’ve seen it work. Source: www.drjohnm.org “A cautionary note on AF ablation in 2015” taken September 29, 2015.

Be still my heart

This is going to sound like a commercial that has been popular for the past decade: people with an irregular heart beat – known as atrial fibrillation or AFib or AF – are at a higher risk of blood clots and stroke. AF – in a nutshell –  is the condition of having disorganized electrical impulses driving your heart beat. The impulses normally start from the top chambers of the heart (atria) and travel to the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). This causes your heart muscle(s) to contract. When this happens on a regular basis you have a normal (sinus) rhythm. During AF, the electrical signals are fast and chaotic. The atria quiver rapidly and irregularly, so blood pools in the atria instead of being pumped properly to the ventricles. Pooling can lead to clotting and clots, when pushed out, can go any place in the body. If the clot goes to the brain it can cause a stroke. Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

On Wednesday, September 16, I started feeling heart palpitations in the afternoon. Thursday morning we went to see my doctor. He got an EKG on me and promptly sent me to the ER – I was having a paroxysmal atrial fibrillation event – and the hospital could administer the drugs to help slow down my heart. As I recall my heart beat was bouncing between 160 and 60 beats per minute. My blood pressure was high – something like 170 over 110.

The ER took another EKG, a chest xray, then started one IV in my right arm with medicine – something like amiodarone (Cordarone). Then they started another IV with medicine in my left arm to regulate the first medicine; it took two techs and two sticks to get the IV to take – OWW! Then I got a CT scan with contrast. This is where I thought tests were getting a little excessive. Eventually (about 5pm) they put me in a hospital room in the critical care unit (CCU). Around 7pm my heart “reset” itself and I returned to sinus rhythm.

Friday morning I got an echocardiogram – an ultrasound of the heart. I didn’t get a run down of the results – probably not much to say. The echo went to a cardiologist who came by around 2pm. By 4pm I was walking out of the hospital.

They prescribed the following meds: metoprolol tartrate (25mg), flecainide acetate (50mg). And I had to add low dose aspirin (81mg).

My doctor wanted me to start Lipitor 3 months ago, but I didn’t – I wanted to try diet and exercise. A week after the night in the hospital I had a checkup with my doctor and afterwords I went to get the generic Lipitor – so September 26 I started taking generic Lipitor (atorvastatin 20mg).

If you’re keeping score at home that’s 4 medicines or 6 pills per day. Ten days ago I didn’t take any meds now I’m stuck with 6 pills. My goal is to get off of the meds as quickly as possible; some internet pages say 2 years.

Just FYI, I started a new category, Health, with this post. I plan to put my health news and other things I find useful into this category.