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Atrial Fibrillation - Tips from a Daughter Who Cares

Start:Feb 26, 2024

Duration:20 Minutes

Goal: this Productive Trail will increase the confidence about controlling the symptoms of a your medical condition.

Description: Turn a medical diagnosis for a chronic condition into a catalyst for adding more passion to your life.


Published By:

Behavior Rx


Step 1

Your doctor told you that you have atrial fibrillation.

Let's get a clearer picture about what's going on.

What does atrial fibrillation or "A Fib" mean exactly?

The Mayo Clinic describes it this way:

A Fib is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Symptoms often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.

Episodes of A Fib can come and go, or you may develop A Fib that doesn't go away and may require treatment. Although A Fib itself usually isn't life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment.

It may lead to complications. It can lead to blood clots forming in the heart that may circulate to other organs and lead to blocked blood flow (ischemia).

Treatments may include medications and other interventions to try to alter the heart's electrical system.

How helpful has this explanation been to you?

Step 2

Let's take this a bit further to explore how you may have gotten here with this condition.

The Mayo Clinic says that abnormalities or damage to the heart's structure are the most common cause of A Fib.

Other possible causes of a fib include:
*High blood pressure
*Heart attacks
*Coronary artery disease
*Abnormal heart valves
*Heart defects you're born with (congenital)
*An overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance
*Exposure to stimulants, such as medications, caffeine, tobacco or alcohol
*Sick sinus syndrome — improper functioning of the heart's natural pacemaker
*Lung diseases
*Previous heart surgery
*Viral infections
*Stress due to pneumonia, surgery or other illnesses
*Sleep apnea

Which of these does your doctor suspect may be the likely culprit?

Step 3

Let's take a look at the risks that may leave you exposed.

The Mayo Clinic describes the risk factors as follow:

The older you are, the greater your risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
*Heart disease
Heart valve problems, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery.
*High blood pressure
Having high blood pressure, especially if it's not well-controlled with lifestyle changes along with proper medications
*Other chronic conditions
These may include thyroid problems, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or lung disease.
Drinking alcohol can trigger an episode of a fib. Binge drinking may put you at an even higher risk. Heavy drinking is another causative agent.
People who are obese are at higher risk.
*Family history
An increased risk is present in some families. (This is not good news for the daughter who is writing this down for her dad!)

Which of these do you think apply to your situation?

Step 4

Go to the video icon above and watch videos that offer additional insight.

Tell us what you thought about them when you've finished watching them.

Step 5

The Mayo Clinic recommends that a healthy lifestyle include:

*Eating a heart-healthy diet
*Increasing your physical activity
*Avoiding smoking
*Maintaining a healthy weight
*Limiting or avoiding caffeine AND alcohol (mmm...about those Pepsi's, not to mention the wine...)
*Reducing stress, as intense stress and anger can cause heart rhythm problems
*Use over-the-counter medications with caution, as some cold and cough medications contain stimulants that may trigger a rapid heartbeat

What are you doing now that would fit into "heart healthy"?

Step 6

What will you commit to improve upon, and describe how you will do this?

Step 7

Medicine is a vital part of your regimen.

What medication were you prescribed? Do you have the meds yet?

How often are you supposed to take them and at what dose?

Step 8

If this applies, list any side effects you experience from taking the medication.

Step 9

If you're still having A Fib episodes after taking your meds, your doctor may prescribe further intervention.

This could include:
*Catheter ablation
*Surgical maze procedure

Will you be honest and tell your doctor if you're still having irregular heartbeats and then schedule the procedure if he or she recommends it be done?

Step 10

Let's stay with doctor's orders for a second. Do you follow doctor's orders regarding your medication(s), diet and any other lifestyle recommendations?

If not, why not?

If the answer is no, please call the doctor's office now to ask for time to discuss your drug regimen and what is working or not working or is simply too confusing. Side effects may also be an issue. Be sure to discuss them.

If the doctor is not available in the next few days, please see your pharmacist for a free consultation until you can get in to see your cardiologist.

Will you take these recommendations to see your doctor and/or pharmacist?

Step 11

Now let's talk about another part of the plan. Along with the right medication at the right dosage, diet is an important component to your health.

You already knew that, huh?

Some food and beverages are just not our friends. They sabotage us, which is why we now have to take these choices very seriously.

So...what changes did your cardiologist and/or nutritionist recommend?

Star those suggestions that you will commit to follow.

Step 12

Alcohol is a sneaky one. It tastes so good! A glass of wine could make that new diet so much better!

But....alcohol is not always our friend. It could be the enemy.

Alcohol amounts are important. Too much can cause that ticker of yours to pound like a 5 year old with a new drum set.

So how much are you drinking? It's important to be honest here.

The NIH defines too much as:

Men: More than 4 drinks on any day or 14 per week
Women: More than 3 drinks on any day or 7 per week

How many glasses of beer, wine or other cocktail do you typically drink on a daily basis?

How full is the glass? If it's wine, Is it more than a proper pour of 5 oz.?

** If you don't want that 5 year old playing drums in your chest, then you must understand that you can't get away with having 1 glass of water for each glass of wine if you drink more than the 1 to 2 glasses (5 oz. each) recommended by your cardiologist.

Step 13

However, water is important in and of itself.

If you're not already doing so, then try this:

Drink 2 x 8oz glasses of water before noon each day.

Drink a total of 64 oz of water throughout the day, more if the weather is hot and/or humid or if your activity level has increased.

Will you commit to this?

Step 14

Exercise. It's important to your overall health. Too little contributes to the risk factors we touched on earlier. Too much is a risk factor, too.

In other words, move your heinie but no need to twerk it!

Too much activity can be described as washing and waxing the car, cleaning out the gutters, chasing off those pesky squirrels, vacuuming to keep the wife happy, refereeing soccer, AND going on a 50-mile bike ride - ON THE SAME DAY!!!!

Pick no more than two or three at most. Your heart would ask you never to put the high-impact activities together in a 24-hour period.

Write two or three types of strenuous, physical activity - approved by your cardiologist - that you would enjoy doing at least four times a week for 30 minutes each time.

Step 15

If you're not already doing so, will you add a new activity to your week in order to give yourself something to look forward to?

The idea here is an act of kindness that nurtures someone else and gets your mind off your own troubles.

If you're already doing something that takes you beyond yourself, then write what it is.

If not, here are some ideas to consider:
* Hospital, hospice or long-term care visitation
* Babysitting for a single mom or dad in your neighborhood
* Mentor a youth in your area
* Take time to talk to a young person each afternoon or evening whose parents are divorced or widowed
* Hold babies in the NICU to give a nurse a break
* Organize a bridge game at a senior center
* Go to the park and chat with someone who needs a friendly conversation and a warm smile
* Help out at a small business if you have the time
* Check into local nonprofits to see if they could use your expertise

Do any of these resonate? If so, list the ones you like in the space provided.

If not, think about what you could do that would genuinely excite you. You may do so in the space provided.

Step 16

Now...will you ask your spouse or call a friend and ask them to hold you accountable for the changes in meds, diet, exercise and activity that you decided upon?

Agree to check in with your spouse or friend each week and report honestly on your results.

Will you do this?

Step 17

For added benefit, schedule this guidance once a week to monitor your progress, doing the steps that apply most to your routine.

To gain maximum impact, join a Behavior Rx campfire or our nationwide campsite to see what others may be doing that's helpful.

To do so, simply include your email address in the last open space on the page. Add your locale so we may group you with other friends or locals who are doing it with you. You'll receive an invite from navitent.com. Click the link and you're in!

Thanks! And all the best to you in this new adventure!

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