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A Follow-Up to My AFib Diagnosis

After spending four days in the hospital with AFib, I had a lot of questions. So I was happy that this past week I had a lot of follow-up doctors' appointments. I walked in with a long

list--all the who, what, where, when, whys and hows.

Mark, my husband was there and asked his own questions. It was a relief that later I didn't have to explain what was said and why I didn't have answers to his questions because I hadn't thought to ask them.

Every appointment brought good news. My blood test results were great; my blood pressure, just right; all my vitals, perfect; and on it went. Of course, I was delighted, but what I really wanted to know was the results of my upcoming echocardiogram.

If you've never had an echocardiogram, it's a fascinating experience. You have the opportunity to see your heart pumping in real time as they take measurements of the walls, valves, and openings. When they want to see the blood flowing through the chambers in technicolor, they press a key and you see the blood entering the chambers in blue and out in bright red--the heart doing its job just the way it should.

I was awestruck witnessing the organ that's keeping me alive doing its job. I couldn't help but think that this was the perfect time to have a conversation with it: "What exactly do I need to do to keep you healthy?" And "Tell me exactly how you are feeling." I found myself longing for as much insight as I could get.

When my cardiologist called to describe the results, he began by saying "Your heart looks great!" He didn't say this because he'd put a stethoscope to my chest and listened. No, he looked at pictures of my heart and saw firsthand that it looked great. That definitely put a smile on my face.

"The chances of getting AFib as we get older are very common," he explained.

I had no idea. But what caused it, I wanted to know.

"Most probably," he replied, "it was triggered by the virus you've had off and on for the past few months, as well as the nagging acid reflux you were experiencing."

To further understand, I did my own research.

The important thing to know about AFib is that once you've had it you have a 40 to 50% greater chance of it recurring. When you are in AFib your heart stops pumping efficiently and you are susceptible to blood pooling in the left atrium. Once that happens, blood clots can form and be pumped out of the heart's chamber to travel to the brain, causing a stroke. After AFib you are five times more likely to have a stroke. Therefore, as a preventative you need to take a blood thinner to safeguard against blood clots.

The symptoms od AFib can vary. These are the ones I experienced:

  • Lightheadedness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Chest pain

But what is important to note is that I didn't experience the ones I thought were the most obvious:

  • Palpitations

  • Rumbling or galloping feeling in the chest

AFib is not life-threatening, but it is considered serious and with the help of medications and a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can live a full healthy life. Isn't that great news?

Here are a few tips to help you manage your AFib risk factors:

  • Eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, and lots of natural grains.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Manage your alcohol intake.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Keep your stress levels down.

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