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New to AFIB - 31yr old male
I was recently diagnosed with AFIB a few weeks ago and have struggled with the symptoms I've experienced and adjusting to the new lifestyle. Symptoms have been sporadic, and ranging from being lightheaded, shortness of breathe ringing in my left ear when BP spikes. When it first started before I started the metropolol, I experienced blackouts. Recently, I woke up with heart palpitations and extreme back flank pain in my upper back right below my shoulder blades... It's been pretty scary being that I'm a relatively healthy young man with a 2yr old daughter. I noticed that my symptoms are worse when I eat salty foods. Has anyone experienced symptoms like these and do you have any advice on how I can adjust and live a normal life? Working with my docs toward getting an ablasion to help but I'm still really scared by what I've experienced. Please tell your story if you experienced anything like this, I feel it would help knowing other people have dealt with this and turned things around for the better.
AHAModerator, December 26, 2020 4:03pm EST
Thanks for sharing your experience with the community. It must be scary to be recently diagnosed.
Please remember you are not alone and the Support Network is rooting for you!
Unfortunately, I'm not a medical professional so I can't answer your specific questions, but AHA has some resources on Atrial Fibrillation that may be helpful:
Keep us informed on your progress and best of luck with working with your doctors!
AHA Support Team
Thumper2, December 27, 2020 7:56am EST
Donny1, you are very young to be having AFib, but I'm glad you are seeing doctors for it. I hope that one of them is an electrophysiologist (EP) -- they are the cardiologists who specialize in treating AFib. And I'm glad to see that ablations have been mentioned. If you decide to have one, make sure your EP has a record of having done hundreds of them successfully. I have had three of them, and they are not a difficult procedure.
Since you mention experiencing palpitations interrupting your sleep, you might consider having a test for sleep apnea. If you have it, treating it should improve the chances of success of any ablation.
I notice that you are trying to identify the "triggers" for your AFib episodes. Everyone with AFib seems to have different ones, but salty foods, alcohol, coffee (caffeine), hot foods, cold drinks (and many more) are often mentioned. In general, educating yourself on AFib is a good thing. Besides the AHA reference mentioned, check out all the resources mentioned in the StopAfib.org site, not to mention the on-site information at the cardiology clinics at the Cleveland and Mayo Clinics. I'm sure they'll furnish you with lots of questions to ask your doctors!
I hope others at this network speak up. We really do care for those new to AFib, and especially those with scary symptoms. When I got AFib, I did not have any symptoms except tachycardia, which was managed by drugs. But I did not see an EP for several years, and by that time, my heart was damaged and ablations did no good (long story). Hang in there, and let us know how things are going! May your New Year be a happy one!
DkinAA, December 27, 2020 2:05pm EST
Thumper2 has some good advice. I will chip in with a bit more - it helps a lot to know more about what causes this condition and what can be done about it. Unlike you, I (male, 73) developed afib late in life, which is more typical. You didn't say whether your afib comes and goes ("paroxysmal", like many of us, including me) or whether it is all the time. Feeling freaked out and upset during an afib episode is "normal" - some people experience no symptoms at all, but most people find the feeling of a crazy heart very disturbing, which can make it worse! Getting "accustomed" to this so you can still function is something many of us learn to do. It might help that most docs say that the afib itself won't kill you, it's the longer-term effects and the risk of stroke that are the problem.
It's very clear from people's comments on this site (usually a lot more, maybe sparse due to holidays plus pandemic) that this is a very individual condition - there are lots of differences between people in symptoms and causes, although there are some pretty common patterns. Many of us (including me) report that salty foods & dehydration tend to bring on an episode, others alcohol and caffeine. For me, stress is a big trigger. LIkewise, people differ in what helps, both in dealing with an episode (often taking a brisk walk has helped me), and in responding to different treatments. A change to a healthier diet, getting treated for sleep apnea, and getting better at dealing with stress have all helped me. Fortunately I can still enjoy coffee (though much less than before) and occasional wine or drink. My EP's clinic includes a staff dietician who gave me excellent advice on these issues.
Because afib differs so much between people, you will have to work with your doctors (preferably an EP) to find what works best for you. Many people do well with medications to keep the heart rate down during an episode, or to keep the heart in rhythm better, but afib tends to get worse with time, so an ablation procedure may be needed. It is common for EPs to start with the drugs and see how people do over time - which I've been doing. A relative of mine had exactly one afib episode, while they have been a feature of my life for the whole time (maybe time for an ablation). Be sure to check out the materials here and where Thumper2 recommends - the stopafib.org videos are very good; treatments are getting better all the time (especially on the ablation front).
Finally, if you like gadgets, the Kardia device or an Apple Watch allows you to check what's happening with a basic ECG; this helps reduce the uncertainty about what you might be feeling and makes it easier to document it.
Good luck, and keep us posted!