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Newly Diagnosed with AFib
Hi, Today I was diagnosed with Afib. Something I never dreamed I would ever have. I think I had been having episodes for about two years off and on but not severe. I would attribute them to having a virus or something else. I would get funny heartbeats for like 2 days and I would be supe exhuasted for that time frame and all of a sudden I was back to normal. I never once thought of going to the cardiologist. This started happening about the year we retired and moved to Vegas. I never gave it a lot of importance because I always returned to normal and my exhaustion went away. Well two weeks ago I got the flu and it gave me headaches and backaches, runny nose and also funny heartbeats. I attributed it all to the flu. Well I had one good day when I felt like myself and then boom back to being exhaused and tired...I couldnt get better. I made an appointment with the cardiologist and thank God they had a cancellation and took me the next day which was today. Hello...his diagnoses was AFib. Now I know all those times I thought I had the flu bug, I was having Afib attacks.... Now I am older and this time when it hit me it just wouldn't get better. I was born with a congential heart defect and had heart surgery when I was 18 yrs old and they fixed it but I ended up with High Blood pressure after my third child was born. So basically I have been taking meds for that most of my life. It has been under control but now I have this. I am 71 years old and very active and on the go but these past two weeks have knocked me on my butt. Please tell me that there is life after this ....I am very concerned about all the new meds I will have to take, like the blood thinnner and a new heart med to slow this heart down. I am very tired at the moment and I hope my heart will return to normal sooner than later. I hate to take new meds becasue I am sensitive to meds. Sorry for the long rant but I sure needed to get this out to people who understand what I am going through. Texymexy
Spencer, January 29, 2019 8:51pm EST
Texymexy - my AFib was similar. I thought it was just a sickness or my heart rate watch was broke. It is a junior nurse at my job that discovered my AFib. That diagnosis hit me like a 50 lb brick out of left field on a dark night. My world devolved thereafter now I have been in NSR for about 9 months and I am still dealing with the fallout. First I had a tough six months with several procedures and that exacerbated underlaying issues.
On the drugs, for me, the blood thinners were no issue at all. You just need to tell your docs that you are on them and if you end up in the ER. On the heart slower (probably Metropol) that always felt weird, I would do something and my heart rate would stay really low. I also felt a bit tired. If your EP/Cardiologist say to take the drugs, then please follow their instructions. It is for your health and the inconvenience you experience you gain in health. I am now taking 10 different per day and that is down from 19 back this summer. But then again, I am crazy.
So, you have found a great place for resources, information, and friends who have traveled this road before you. Ask any question and use this place to rant with.
In the Sunlight
TexyMexy, January 29, 2019 9:32pm EST
Thank you Spencer for replying to my post. I am pretty down right about now, because I hate to take new meds. I will take them for sure to help my condition. I wish Doctors were not so rushed these days. I saw a new cadiologist today that was hightly recommemded and he definitely knew his stuff but I kind of think he was a little in a hurry with me. He is very knowledgeable so I will stick with him.
Patio7, January 29, 2019 9:50pm EST
Hi, You have come to the right place. First, do not be discouraged. Know everyone experiences this a bit different and the meds you are given need to be evaluated by your experience. I wasted time thinking...maybe this is what I am supposed to feel, when instead I needed to have my EP try a different approach. Still learning. And Spencer is not crazy, despite his self deprecating comments. He know a lot about this adventure and d gives good advice.
I find the folks who deal with this best and get back to a life they enjoy are those who pay alot of attention to how their bodies react and learn as much as they can. Try not to overreact, and know afib will surely not kill you though it certainly can mess up your life for a while. It is something you can learn to live with and many folks here have regained a very good life. But it does take serious attention to find your own path. I know you will do well. After all you were smart enough to come here immediately. Stay with us. I am wishing you the best. Pat
TexyMexy, January 29, 2019 10:46pm EST
Thank you so much Pat. I have been having a little pity party all day. Your post and everyones on here have given me hope that I can beat this and move on with my life. I do tend to overreact to things. My husband always tells me that. I appreciate everyone's advice and input. Please keep it coming.
TR, January 30, 2019 5:43am EST
Welcome to the club that none of us ever wanted to be in. It's very important that you find a good, experienced EP, an electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in electrical problems of the heart. If you're like most of us, you know little to nothing about AFIB at this point, so try to educate yourself about the disease. The stopafib.org site is full of useful information, but take your time to work around the site to figure all the information that's available. Knowledge is power to beat this. There are basically two ways to deal with this, drugs or ablation. Drugs are the easiest way, but for many they just don't work. Antiarythmic drugs work for some, but do nothing for others. Rate control drugs attempt to keep your heartrate lower during episodes, which will limit the symptoms. They work better for many people, but for some the side effects are too much to handle. If the drugs don't work, ablation of the heart is the alternative choice. It may take two ablations, or possibly even three to block the exraneous signals that cause the AFIB. This is the most random of diseases, and the affects and solutions tend to differ for each person. I'm seventy one also, and I had two ablations, the second which was successful, and have been in normal rhythm for over a year with no drugs. Based on what you wrote, if the drugs are not effective in taming your AFIB, this would seem like a logical choice. There are also surgical ablations which are effective, but more invasive. The important thing to remember is there are ways of treating this and you just need patience and persistence along with good guidance from a highly experienced EP to giude you through this journey and get your life back to normal, so don't lose the faith and try to educate yourseldf to the road ahead. The good news is there is a way to deal with this, your job is now to find it. Best of luck, and the people on this forum are a great resource and your fortunate to have found it so quickly.
Rogochef, January 30, 2019 7:56am EST
HI. I can appreciate your situation as do the rest of the folks replying to your situation. My Afib was Dx'ed 9 months ago, also out of the blue, at age 78. Goodie for me that I got it later in life. Couple three things not mentioned. 1. Sleep Apnea. When I saw my cardiologist --every six months due to on-going irregular, slow HB-- I also had shortness of breath, the EKG showed Afib for the first time and he first referred me to a sleep clinic and after two over night sessions was Dx'ed with complex sleep apnea which is a combo of obstructive and central apnea. I got a ASV (Adaptive Servo Ventilator) and that issue was taken care of. I had no idea I had the condition! The sleep apnea may have actually been a causative factor in getting Afib. 2. Next, due to my irregular and slow HB, I got a pacemaker which got the HB up to a better range of 60 to 130 BPM depending on activity. The irregular slow HB may also have been a contributive factor. 3. Body weight, diet and alcohol: Although I am not morbidly obese, I am, or was, 40 lbs overweight, consumed too much alcohol and drank caffinated coffee. These are also negative factors when it comes to heart health and can contribute to Afib attacks. Alcohol for sure is a trigger for me, not sure about caffine as I have quit all caffine, totally, and from what I read caffine may or may not be a trigger. I eliminated it anyway. I all but eliminated alcohol, allowing myself an occasional small glass of wine (4 oz). My diet has always been good as I like to cook; my main problem was not the healthyness of food I made and ate, just the volume I consumed was too much. I am now on my way to my ideal weight of 160 to correct that issue. Last, physical activity. It is easy to become very sedintary with this condition but my experience is that the less active I am, the worse I feel and conversely, the more active, the better. The meds, Eliquis and Metoprolol , tend to make me sluggish but I push through that and find that activity helps combat the feeling.
Oh yes, my EP also suggested I may be B-12 and D deficient as well as hypo-thyroid. Tests were done and I was borderline on the D and B-12 but definitely hypo-thyroid. So, I now take D and B-12 daily as well as levothyroxine for the thyroid.
I have had one near faint spell that landed me in the ER and overnight in the hosp for observation...which you might also encounter with Afib. Not to panic, its rather common I am told. My pacemaker was checked and will be checked again on 6 Feb. Oddly enough, I have felt better since the episode with fewer afib episodes that I can actually feel. Prior to being dx'ed with the condition I never felt any afib. Ablation has been discussed, but unless my condition becomes severe, I will defer ablation untill I reach my weight goal has been reached and I have done all I can to deal with the condition without medical intervention. Good Luck.
BethClark, January 30, 2019 8:10am EST
As others have said, this is a great forum to be a part of. Sorry that you need to be a part of it. I was diagnosed with aFib 3+ years ago. It was a very stressful visit to the ER and then 3 days in the hospital for observation and scary testing. Yes, I get the pity party part. For me I wasn't even done with 18 months of difficult treatment for a lung infection and here was another big problem to deal with. I was already taking metroprolol for another type of arrythmia so I continued that and they added a blood thinner--warfarin at the time because the newer blood thinners couldn't be taken with some antibiotics I still had to take for a few months longer. I understand that with the new aFib guidelines that warfarin is now recommended only in special cases. IMO that's a very good thing. I thought warfarin was terrible to be on because my dosages were changed weekly, sometimes daily, and I had to have blood tests weekly, I was worrying about what I was eating all the time and despite all that I was in therapeutic range only 25% of the time. After 6 months of being on warfarin I was able to switch to Pradaxa, which is much better. I had a second aFib episode 4 months after the first one. My doctor added flecanide, so I was on flecanide, metoprolol, and Pradaxa (for the aFib). I've been stable since, no aFib events for 3 years now.
For me and many of us, coming to terms with having aFib has been a process. For lots of us, one of the big hurdles is dealing with anxiety about it--having a problem that could happen anytime and anywhere, being on a blood thinner, not knowing whether you're going to be able to live your life as you knew it. My doctor told me to just live my life, aFib won't kill me and of all the cardiac problems aFib is probably the best to have. Easy for him to say! I remember that a couple of weeks after I was diagnosed I had to pick up my daughter at the airport only 30 minutes away. My stomach was in knots. What if aFib happened while I was driving to pick her up? I couldn't imagine doing most of my usual activities, even ones very close, because what if aFib happened while I was there. The first few times I wacked myself I made a quick trip to the doctor in case that bruising was a sign of me bleeding to death. A cut, oh my, was that going to be an emergency? I learned before too long that my little cuts didn't bleed anymore than usual, routine wacks didn't bruise more than usual. With the switch to Pradaxa I don't think about the meds much. I have an alarm set on my phone so that I always take it 12 hours apart (important for the new anticoagulants to stay on a strict schedule). The anxiety about aFib happening has taken much longer for me to deal with and feel comfortable going places--and hasn't disappeared completely. My comfort zone is still close to home. But after 2 1/2 years I finally went away for a few days with friends who I know would have my back if the aFib occurred. I still haven't traveled other than a couple of hours from home, and have not gone on public transportation. Dealing with aFib while off on my own on public transportation would be very stressful I'm sure since I'm very symptomatic. In a couple of weeks I'm on the hook for jury duty and if I have to go in I have to take public transportation to go there; I'm trying not to think about that.
This is all a long way of saying that it does get easier. Luckily I've had not issues with medications except for the warfarin. Everyone is different. Some meds that work well and have few side effects for some folks don't work well for others. It might be trial and error to find the right treatment for you. Meds are working for me so I haven't considered an ablation. The aFib journey for some folks can be bumpy; for others easier. For me the anxiety about having aFib has been what held me back from getting on with my life, not the aFib itself. I wish you good luck. Keep reading the forum and posting. I think that we have all found that the more knowledge we have, the more comfortable we have become with it.
Thumper2, January 30, 2019 8:26am EST
Tex, you've gotten a lot of good info already. Let me just emphasize that you not wait too long before investigating the ablation route (done by an electrophysiologist who has a lot of successful ablations under his/her belt). I had few AFib symptoms for almost 10 years, but by the time I got to an EP (rather than just a cardiologist), my heart had begun deteriorating in various ways, and the 3 ablations I had did not work for me. However, many on this forum can tell you of the success they've had with ablations (as did TR). BTW, my blood thinner has been warfarin for years -- I have no problems with it and eat whatever I want. I love the monthly checkups--they get me out of the house and I do miscellaneous shopping afterwards! All the best --
FlSrLady35, January 30, 2019 6:29pm EST
Tex, I can relate to the emotional "hit" when the doctor told you that you have AFib. I'm 83, divorced for years and live alone. I've known about my having high BP since I was 50 and have monitored my BP several times a month ever since because my mother and grandmother both died of high BP and strokes. I'm on Carvedilol. I've been careful about my diet too.
I also have Hypothyroid. I take Levothyroxin. In 2014 I developed Advanced Psoriasis now under control with Methotrexate which is a strong medication. I was blaming feeling weak, tired, and even woozy at times on the meds.
The past few years I've had incidents that involved my sight, the last being 11/30/18 - Vertigo that lasted for 12 hours. My primary care doctor kept telling me he thought it was my Vagus Nerve.
The doctor finally set up an appointment with a Cardiovascular M.D. I wondered at the time why a Cardio doctor. I thought I was going to have my Vagus Nerve checked out because that can control your heart and a lot of other things. I had no idea I had heart issues although I do now remember my mother had Afib most of her life.
You can imagine my surprise after they performed an ECG that I have Atrial Fibrillation and Kidney Disease - Stage 3 (I think he got that from the copy of my blood tests I gave him). He told me I was having AFib as I was sitting there and that I had a minor stroke and several TIA's several years ago.
I thought I was taking it okay. When I got down to my car, it hit me. I broke down and cried. I was scared. I called my daughter who came to my house to help me deal with this news.
I did a LOT of research which is how I found THIS great site. I feel better now knowing that it can be brought under control. I went in to the clinic yesterday where they fitted me with a Heart Holter Monitor that I wore for 24 hours. I took it back today and they ran a cardio scan (an echo cardiogram) of the inside of my heart to check for damage. I won't get the final report until next week as to how much damage has been done for not knowing and treating it sooner. He'll also be able to tell me what type or stage of AFib I have. He's put me on Eliquis (some free samples). He said he will probably switch me to Coumadin which my mother took for years.
I did some online research. Eliquis is $444 a month which I could not possible afford. Coumadin is MUCH less. All I have is my social security. Needless to say I am NOT very happy with my primary physician for not catching this before.
On 2/14/16 I went to sink after lunch and reached for the faucet handle. My sight was clear. The handle was right in front of me yet when I reached for it, it wasn't there. I waved my hand around in the air. The handle was actually two feet to my right. I remained calm and turned to the refrigerator. Same thing. The handle was off to my right. I knew something was wrong. I went to the phone and tried to dial my doctor's office. (Why I didn't dial 911 I don't know - stupid of me.) When the nurse answered my speech was garbled even though my mind was clear and I knew what I wanted to say. It cleared up slightly within an hour. My daughter came over and talked to the doctor. He said to take me to my eye doctor because it could be the nerve at the back of my neck. It took a week for me to be able to totally talk normal. The ECG confirmed it WAS a stroke. My primary care doctor never had me come in for a checkup immediately after.
I, like so many others I've read about here, was frightened and scared... for a while. My two children and friends have been great. Reading the accounts in this site has also helped.
Hang in there. The shock will wear off eventually. You'll naturally be apprehensive about your meds and how much you can and cannot do. I know I still am. I may be going on 84 soon but "I'm not ready to go yet." LOL Needless to say, I'll be changing Primary care doctors.
Thanks for posting and thanks to all who responded. You have not only helped Tex, you have helped me as well.
Thumper2, January 31, 2019 8:44pm EST
FlSrLady35, thank you for sharing your very interesting (though somewhat scary) experience with a stroke. We're glad you're here with us, and hope that you will soon be on warfarin (Coumadin) to keep you from having any more TIAs or strokes! All the best,