Got AFib? Let's Talk...
Got AFib? Let's Talk... will be a continuing series of articles written by Paul W. Ennis, PPAHN detailing his personal experiences with Atrial Fibrillation/AFib. These articles are not to be considered 'Medical Advice', nor do they contain 'Medical Recommendations' for anyone. If you are dealing with AFib you need to be under the care and guidance of a medical professional - perhaps even several of them. AFib is not a condition to deal with on your own, and/or to be taken lightly.
With these disclaimers stated, let me be clear that in my personal opinion and through my direct experience since September 1, 2022, I've come to learn that Atrial Fibrillation/AFib is a medical heart arrhythmia condition that - contrary to many medical professionals' consensus opinions - can be treated utilizing modern-day interventional care plans focused upon greatly reducing, if not entirely eliminating, the negative health consequences of AFib upon your body and within your life.
Truth to tell, has it been easy to reduce and/or eliminate AFib from my body/life? YES & NO!
Am I appreciative of the medical team(s) and the medical books/resources I've been working with over the past several years? ABSOLUTELY
Have I actually eliminated all symptoms and negative outcomes of AFib from my body/life at this point in time? YES, COMPLETELY!
Here's a thumbnail sketch of my AFib history. Please remember that your experiences and symptom profile patterns are likely going to be different than mine. However, the process and the series of actions you will need to take in order to reduce and/or eliminate AFib's impacts upon your life will be quite similar to what I and many other women and men have been able to successfully accomplish.
My intermittent AFib was first discovered in December of 2018 (quite by accident) during my annual physical exam. I say quite by accident because I had no overt awareness of anything going wrong within my 67-year old body - in other words, I was asymptomatic.
I had no outward symptoms, discomforts, nor awareness that my Left Ventricle was cranking along at a very irregular 119 BPM and my Left Atrium was racing along at speeds they best describe as 'fibrillating'.
FYI, these were not fun medical facts to learn!
Next Level Up:
Within a few months my AFib symptoms became chronic and persistent. Translation: I was always in AFib!
FYI, during this time period I was under the care of an excellent Primary Care Physician as well as one of the finest Cardiologists in our local area.
Being asymptomatic was a blessing and a curse for me. Most of what my medical team said to me was that they were going to just 'monitor' me - since I was not having any discomfort, nor realizing any significant negative health outcomes due to my heart's current state of arrhythmia.
What they did not tell me was that my heart was being damaged, stressed, and weakened - ever so subtly and cumulatively.
AFib Myth #1:
The consensus opinion is that there’s 'no cure' for AFib - folks just have to put up with it, live with it, take drugs for it, have catheter ablations to combat it, and accept the fact that they will likely be dealing with AFib for the rest of their lives.
And, I'm here to share with you that this is simply not true!
Elevated Awareness Level:
After several years of dealing with AFib and simply monitoring it - I felt uneasy and unsatisfied with the consensus opinions I was being given. In March of 2022 I reached out on my own to the medical experts at the University of California San Francisco/UCSF. The doctors in their 'Cardiac Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia Service ' provided me with a much more accurate (and alarming) diagnosis - I was living with a highly stressed heart muscle that was failing.
Yes, I was statistically in 'heart failure' and much to my shock and dismay things were not going to get better any time soon. Talk about a wake-up call!
Over the next few months, I attempted to get my AFib under control using the highest level of drug therapies, cardioversions, and cutting-edge science that UCSF had to offer.
All to no avail... In fact, what I learned was that 'AFib begets AFib'.
So, the longer I was experiencing this heart arrhythmia the harder it was going to be to get me out of this heart arrhythmia.
AFib Myth #2:
Most AFib cardiac care regimens are founded upon the belief that it is best to allow asymptomatic AFib symptoms to merely be monitored and 'put up with' until something negative actually begins to express itself (like heart failure symptoms).
Again, this is simply not true!
The longer a heart muscle is allowed to remain in AFib without more aggressive interventions and lifestyle modifications being taken - the harder it is to have any real chance at getting that heart muscle back into its normal sinus rhythm.
I do not fault my local Cardiologist for not understanding that imperative.
In fact, I'm going to bet that those of you living with AFib have likely heard the exact same diagnosis and prognosis from your doctors in relation to your own struggles with this particular type of heart arrhythmia.
Myth Busting Time is NOW!:
For the sake of brevity and clarity I'm going to shift gears in my storyline and move us along into the part that is most important to focus upon next - 'The AFib Cure'!
I've established fully that I was dealing with a very serious condition - my heart was failing.
After almost four years of 'monitoring' I was actually, finally beginning to experience negative consequences from the accumulated stresses AFib had relentlessly subjected my heart muscle to including: tiredness, headaches, unclear states of mind, lower energy levels and less ability to sustain my normal working rhythms. It was very clearly 'go time' if I was going to have any hope of living the kind, type and length of life I desired.
I stated previously: "Has it been easy to eliminate AFib from my life? YES & NO!"
Briefly, this is what I mean. I've had to endure failed drug therapies, chemical interventions, and very scary things - like being told (and shown) that I was in 'heart failure'.
That's the 'No' part - it has not been easy, fun, relaxed, nor enjoyable to eliminate AFib from my life. The 'Yes' part began with the following excerpt from a book that was recommended to me by one of my eventual heart surgeons, Dr. Armin Kiankhooy:
“…If, indeed, you’d like to start working toward a life that is better than it was before the words ‘atrial fibrillation’ were part of your vocabulary . . . then this book is for you. Because what this book offers is a path to a cure. Your doctor may scoff at that word. They might tell you there is no such thing as an ‘AFib cure’. So be it. Respectfully, we disagree.” - Dr. John Day and Dr. T. Jared Bunch
It was mid-June 2022 when these 75-words first appeared before my eyes within the introductory pages of the book that was about to change my entire life (and save it, as well).
We all agree that words on a page can provide only so much practical help for any one of us. Ultimately, it is the direct actions we take that will provide the outcomes and 'results' we may be needing or looking for. Once I read these words and realized that there was a path to an AFib cure, which was not simply based upon the well-worn thesis of acceptance and monitoring of my now failing heart muscle - I was all in with a huge - YES!
'The AFib Cure ' is a book written by two outstanding Electrophysiologists. Dr. John Day, MD and Dr. T. Jared Bunch, MD (with excellent stylistic editing by Matthew D. LaPlante).
It is a book that is written with a depth of detail, scientific fact and worldly experience that immediately put me at ease.
Dr.'s Day and Bunch are equipped with some of the best 'bedside mannerisms' and 'wordsmithing skills' that I've ever experienced (and boy, did I need some strong and hopeful bedside mannerisms to come into my life at that particular point in time).
'The AFib Cure' is a guidebook that provides a practical model and a systematic series of actions that will help you focus your efforts and activities of daily living on the reduction, or complete elimination, of the heart arrhythmia AFib from your life.
To be completely candid, 'The AFib Cure' suggests a series of diet and lifestyle changes – that must be made in order to eliminate the major factors that lead to this deadly arrythmia. And, taking these steps may not be something everyone wants to do, or can do.
Lifestyle Modifications Action Plan:
For instance, my wife and I were able to support each other through some seemingly simple, yet profound dietary and eating-habit changes.
What do I mean by that?
On the advice of Dr.'s Day and Bunch (and numerous other medical and nutritional professionals) we've eliminated all excess salt, highly processed foodstuffs, and added sugars from our diet.
We only eat 'real foods' in as close to their natural state as we can possibly find them. (The reason(s) why this is so important are fully explained within the pages of 'The AFib Cure'.)
Simply put, we Humans are what we eat, and eating processed foods loaded-up with added sugar, salt and chemicals is not healthy for us to be doing.
Persons of the species Homo Sapiens require foodstuffs that provide essential nutrients, amino acids, fiber, vitamins, and chemical elements that will build and maintain their skin, hair, muscles, nerve tissues, internal organs, and bones, etc.
When these foodstuffs are not eaten in as close to their natural state as they can be - our bodies cannot digest them properly and their value is in essence wasted.
Add to that the well-documented negative consequences of consuming excess sugar, salt, toxic chemicals, and preservatives and the likely outcomes become even darker and more life-threatening.
What do we eat you may wonder - in order to stay happy and healthy?
Tons of delicious fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, seafoods, nuts, seeds and foodstuffs that 'look like what they are'.
In other words, if what you are eating is a ground-up, modified, reduced, re-constituted or re-framed version of what the original foodstuff was, and if it contains ingredients that you cannot pronounce and would not normally find on your kitchen shelves - then don't eat it!
Plus, we've made other lifestyle and work/life rhythm changes in order to lower our stress levels, break our 'breaking news' TV viewing habits, monitor our accumulated social media consumption and stop subjecting ourselves to negative emotional, psychological and social interactions.
Surgical Ablation Procedures:
In addition, I was fortunate to be able to work with two outstanding heart surgeons at the Adventist Heart and Vascular Institute in St. Helena, CA. Dr. Armin Kiankhooy and Dr. Gan Dunnington performed a highly specialized 'Hybrid Team Cox Mini-Maze Surgical Ablation' procedure on me the morning of September 1, 2022, and since that day I have been in normal Sinus Rhythm.
At three months post-surgery my heart had re-gained functionality sufficient for me to be removed from the 'heart failure' category of risk.
Was this surgery a 'walk in the park'? Absolutely not!
Yet, I've re-gained my life, my heart health, and completely eliminated AFib from my vocabulary.
At six-months post-surgery I am here extolling the virtues of all I have done and been through 'cuz I am just darn glad to be alive.
I want to share what I have learned with others so they can know first-hand that it’s possible to eliminate AFib from their vocabularies, as well.
Let's Wrap it up for Now:
By following the lifestyle and dietary modification guidelines recommended in 'The AFib Cure' and by having highly sophisticated surgical ablation work done on my heart muscle I have been able to maintain my normal sinus rhythms and re-gain my heart's functionality.
Who could ask for anything more?
This does not guarantee that you will be able to do the same thing(s) in your life in relation to whatever degree you may be experiencing AFib and/or related heart arrythmias.
However, it does guarantee:
#1 - We can have an open and inspiring conversation/dialog about exactly what AFib is really all about - sans the myths and consensus opinions;
#2 - That you have AFib care plan alternatives to work with if you choose to engage with them;
#3 - That simply 'monitoring' your AFib symptoms and the negative outcomes engendered upon your heart's health - is not the only choice, nor path you have to follow.
The direct 'call to action' I am being guided by is: Got AFib? Let's Talk...
Without further ado, I'll look forward to your thoughts and comments in reply.
Stay safe and strong.
- Paul W. Ennis, PPAHN
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