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Diagnosed by my Fitbit watch
I am an 83 year old male in good health. I was a runner for 41 years until arthritis in the lower spine put an end to my running.
About June 1, 2020 I noticed my pulse was irregular. A few days later I received an email from Fitbit telling me that my watch had detected an irregular heartbeat. Fitbit invited me to join a study they were doing to see how their algorithm was doing at detecting an irregular heartbeat. I joined the study and wore a Holter monitor for a week. The report said I was in AF the entire week even though I have no symptoms. At the same time I joined the study I went to my *** who took an ECG which showed I had AF. He sent me to a heart arrhythmia specialist the next day who did another ECG. She put me on the anticoagulant Eliquis for five weeks. At the conclusion of the five weeks she did a cardioversion on me. As soon as I came out of the anethesia, my pulse was normal! I was very happy. The next week I went to her office for a follow-up. Another ECG showed the AF was gone. However, the very next morning when I took my pulse, I could tell it was irregular. I wrote to her on the patient portal. She had me come back for another ECG which showed, as I suspected, that the AF was back. She said I had three options:
1. Stay on Eliquis
2. Have a catheter ablation
3. Have a pacemaker installed.
She said if I went with option 1, eventually I would need a pacemaker. (I'm wondering if this is true and, if so, what time span are we talking about. After all, I am not a young man!)
She also said there was a fourth option which involved taking medication to control the AF. She said, however, that the medication slowed the heartbeat and my heartbeat is already low -- between 50 and 65. Therefore, that was not an option for me.
I am having a problem figuring out what route to take. The ablation is attractive since it usually fixes the problem but not always and, with any procedure, there are possible side effects.
Oh, my older brother, who died in January had AF and my younger brother has had AF for nine years. My father had a number of strokes but lived to 95. My doctor thinks he likely had AF, too. Since my younger brother is also asymptomatic, he is inclined to stay on the anticoagulant (Warfarin) and do nothing else. He swims a mile every morning.
Thanks for reading,
axnr911, August 30, 2020 7:52pm EST
Hi Alan- I'm Jeanne. I had a stroke 2 years ago, and it was found to be caused by afib, which I was never aware of. I was put on Eliquis and dilitiazem, which slowed my heart down to about 40. I couldn't function, was tremendously sluggish, so the doc put in a pacemaker to keep it from going below 60. I feel much better. I asked about ablation. He said they often didn't last for someone my age. I was 74 at the time. This seemed to be the best solution for me. He's keeping me on Eliquis. I'm glad, because it's like my security blanket. It's supposed to be quite effective, but not 100 %, to prevent clots. So the afib had to be controlled too. Hence, the dilitiazem. Hope this input helps you. You're not alone. Best of luck, Jeanne
Thumper2, August 31, 2020 8:01am EST
Alan, of your options listed, I really recommend having one (or more) ablations. But the ablations should be done by an electrophysiologist who has a record of doing hundreds of them successfully. When I got AFib (in my 70s), I had few symptoms, and it was controlled by meds. But in the meantime, my heart was slowly and quietly deteriorating. After about 8 years, I finally saw a more knowledgeable cardiologist who said my heart was in bad shape, and that was why I could barely do anything but nap. I saw an EP and had cardioversions and ablations,none of which got me back into NSR. I finally had a special procedure in which a pacemaker ******* into my His Bundle tells my ventricles when to beat. It has given me back my quality of life, but I am sure that if I had seen an EP years earlier, ablation(s) would have been successful. Being on a blood thinner is necessary (coumadin works for me, but not for everyone). There are folks on this forum who have had successful ablations -- it is the closest thing to a "cure" for AFib that one can get. Talk to more EPs -- let us know things are going! All the best,
patrickg, September 16, 2020 11:11pm EST
I'm 71 and was diagnosed with paroxysmal AF in January 2018. FWIW, meds continue to work well for me. I take Dofetilide (generic Tikosyn) and Pradaxa twice a day with little to no side effects. The Dofetilide does seem to keep my HR relatively low...my resting rate is usually 50-60 and I have to work hard to get it above 100 on my daily 25-30 mile bike rides.
Great job with the Fitbit alerting you to your condition! I was also asymptomatic before my diagnosis (and still am) which was discovered during a first visit with a new doctor. I bought an Apple Watch shortly after being diagnosed to monitor my HR, especially during my bike rides. Bottom line, the meds have not slowed me down as I build my days around my bike rides which are the highlight of my day!
Good luck going forward! I'm wondering if you have tried riding a bike with your arthritis...a recumbent might be a good option for you as it provides support for your back. With your running history, I expect you'd love to get back out there!