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This was a lengthy episode as Steve and I had a lot to share and discuss! If you don’t have time to listen to the podcast or read the transcript below, here is a list of the 15 things you can do to help manage the fear and anxiety that often comes with atrial fibrillation:
- Knowledge is power. Knowledge is control.
- Keep an Anxiety Thought log.
- Give yourself a daily “worry period” and then move on.
- Keep a daily dairy. Get your thoughts, anxiety, and worry on paper.
- Consider yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.
- Engage in light to moderate exercise such as daily walks.
- Try natural remedies such as lavender oil, pharma GABA, L theanine, magnesium, relora, chamomile, and gotu kola.
- Prescription drugs such as Xanax and Ativan may help.
- Professional counseling – especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help.
- Reach out to A-fib.com’s support volunteers.
- Join A-fib.com’s positive thought prayer group.
- Talk to your friends, family, and co-workers about your afib.
- Don’t become socially isolated because of your afib. Stay connected with others!
- Religion can help combat fear and anxiety. Pray. Go to church. Meditate on God’s word.
- Medical devices can help give you control over afib and ease fear and anxiety.
BEGIN RAW TRANSCRIPT
Travis Van Slooten: All right, for today’s episode of The Afib Podcast I invited Dr. Steve Ryan back again. Steve is a former afib patient who was cured of his afib back in April 1998 via a catheter ablation. He’s the publisher of one of the most popular afib websites, a-fib.com, and he’s the author of the bestselling book, Beat Your Afib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure. In this episode, Steve and I discover various things afibbers can try to do to help combat the mental and emotional challenges that come with having atrial fibrillation. So with that, let’s have a listen.
All right, Steve, what I want to talk about today is the mental and emotional challenges that afibbers face, because as you know afib is a lot more than just the physical aspects of the condition. In fact, often times it’s the mental and emotional challenges that are harder to overcome than the physical aspects of afib.
Steve Ryan: Yes indeed.
Travis Van Slooten: And I’m talking about those things like anxiety, fear, worry, confusion, frustration, depression, and of course, even anger. But as you noted, Steve, on your website so eloquently, afib may be in your heart but it doesn’t need to be in your head. So with that Steve, I want you and I to give afibbers a variety of things that they could consider doing to combat some of these mental or emotional challenges. So with that, Steve, what are some of the things then that afibbers can do to overcome these things?
Steve Ryan: First, Travis, let me thank you for bringing up this subject; it’s perhaps one of the most important subjects that patients have to deal with. Let me start off by giving you a personal example. 20 years ago I had my first affib attack, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I came home from work – I was working on the soap opera Days of Our Lives as part of the technical crew; best job I ever had besides what I’m doing now – and my wife wasn’t home. She was out of town.
I walked in the door — five minutes later my heart started going crazy on me. It felt like my heart was trying to jump out of my chest. I had all this pounding and confusion and naturally you’re asking yourself: what’s going on? Am I dying? Am I having a heart attack? You know? You’re terrorized by this thing. Because what was, you know, I wasn’t thinking straight and just drove to the hospital, the ER, and by the time I got there the episode was over.
But anyway, one of the hardest things to deal with is the terror and confusion and anxiety, like all the things you mentioned; I went through all of them in one night. And especially anger; for me anger was the key. I was so angry. I’m in perfect shape. I’m running. I’m doing everything I should, and I didn’t talk to my heart but I mean, you know? I say why are you doing this to me? I’m taking good care of you, why are you behaving like this?
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, I’ve been there.
Steve Ryan: So, unfortunately, when you have something like this and you go to the typical ER doctor you don’t expect much help. They’ve been trained to deal with the physical aspect of afib, not the emotional and psychological. They don’t have that kind of training; they don’t have that kind of interest. So unfortunately we’re left to ourselves, and I wish I had a guaranteed way to help everybody but we’re doing the best we can.
The first thing is knowledge is power, knowledge is control, and the more you learn about afib…Let’s say for instance in my example; if someone had told me, “Well, you’re not going to die from an afib attack, that’s not what happened; it feels terrible but it isn’t going to kill you.” Well, if I had known I would have been much more relieved because I didn’t know that at the time.
And just to know that afib is a heart condition, that as bad as it feels it’s not going to kill you immediately, that’s very stress relieving. And the more you read, the more you can get involved in websites — and good websites, not these fly-by-night things: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, our sites, my book. Anything you can do to develop more knowledge about afib will give you more control, will give you a sense that, hey, I don’t have to live with this disease, it’s not going to kill me. I know what to do now. I know what causes it, any kind of knowledge that that you can get to help relieve this anxiety.
Also, I’d like to mention that on our site we have over a hundred stories of people who have had afib and been cured. Not all of them have been cured. But read some of those. If you find out that other people have symptoms like you and have been cured, that’s a real relief, that helps anxiety and gets you over the hump, so to say.
Travis Van Slooten: Oh absolutely. I just want to backup a second. I’m just curious, Steve, so when you were first diagnosed what did your doctor tell you about afib, or did they not say anything?
Steve Ryan: Again, it’s been 20 years so I can’t tell you exactly, but what I remember is they just gave me drugs. I tried every conceivable medication known to man at that time and they all didn’t work, and that’s all they could do. I don’t remember exactly what they said but they considered it a serious disease. They didn’t blow me off and say, “Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing to worry about. Everybody gets things like that.” No, they didn’t do that, they considered it seriously and they were trying to do what they can to get me out of it, but 20 years ago they didn’t know very much about afib.
Travis Van Slooten: So that was very different. My experience was actually just the opposite. I actually consider myself very fortunate because like you said I went to the ER my first time and the ER doc, as you mentioned, they’re not trained to give you any real education, they’re just there to help you out and get you out the door. And I had a great ER doc and she cardioverted me and when I was done my discharge paper she just said, “Okay, you had an afib episode. It’s called atrial fibrillation, and you might want to follow up with a cardiologist,” and she didn’t freak me out at all. She didn’t make it sound like it was a big deal. It wasn’t like, “Oh, this is very serious, don’t delay.” I remember her specifically telling me you might want to go see a cardiologist sometime.
Steve Ryan: Wow, really?
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, so I was like, “Okay, this can’t be a big deal,” but I, being the kind of person I am, type A person, I made the appointment the next day. And fortunately my cardiologist was an elderly cardiologist, and I didn’t know it at the time but he was nearing retirement. So he was in his upper 70’s and he just was like, “Yeah, you have atrial fibrillation. It’s not a big deal. I’m going to put you on a Holter monitor. We just want to make sure that your heart is fine,” and so they sent me on my way for a 24-hour Holter monitor.
When I turned it back in he said everything looked fine. He said it’s no big deal. He said if these come back again, he said we have three options: we can cardiovert you again like you just went through, we can try some drugs as a lot of times that works, and if it doesn’t they have this thing called an ablation where we just go in and burn the spots, and you know, it’s not a big deal.
And so I was very fortunate because I had both the ER doc and the cardiologist telling me that it wasn’t really a big deal so I went for the first several years of my atrial fibrillation thinking it wasn’t a big deal. So it was, for me, I didn’t even really need to get knowledge because my doctors were telling me, “It’s not a big deal.” I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right approach either. I think there is somewhere in between, but for me, I didn’t really have too much anxiety or anything in the first few years of my afib journey just because of the way they handled it. So I just find it interesting how different experiences we had.
Steve Ryan: Well, you know, again, I think they erred on the side of being too cavalier.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, exactly.
Steve Ryan: Let’s face it, you don’t want your heart to be in a disease condition if you can avoid it.
Travis Van Slooten: Yes.
Steve Ryan: And also let face it, one of the things I faced was I never knew when I was going to have another attack; they would come and go. For instance, I know some people keep a log and try to determine what they eat. I tried at that, it was no use at all. I had attacks — whenever afib felt like coming it came. I had no control over it. And that kind of thing really put you on edge, you know, you just can’t relax, you never know when you’re going to have an attack.
That breathes anxiety and fear, and that’s something that we need to help patients cope with as much as we can. One thing that someone suggested to me that I thought seemed to work very well—I didn’t use it, but what he called it was an Anxiety Thought Log. This is from Anthony Bladen. And what he basically did was he recognized that in his subconscious all kinds of crazy things were going on. He was in fear, his subconscious was saying, without being explicit, “you’re going to die, you’re going to have another heart attack, you’re going to have a stroke, you are never going to get over this.” All these are things that are going around in his subconscious.
What he did was he tried to write each of these bad thoughts down specifically, make them specific and he called it an anxiety thought log; write down word for word what the anxious log was when and what was the trigger. Confront each fearful thought and try to restate it in a more reasonable frame of mind.
Another thing that people suggest is have a worry period, say 20 Minutes a day; I’m just going to let all my thoughts go crazy, I’m going to worry about everything that I probably never should worry about and I’m going to let all these thoughts go and I’m going to do this for 20 minutes and then I’m going to go watch a movie or cooking show, whatever it takes to get into a different frame of mind and not try to worry about this any other time. These anxiety thought logs can be very helpful. And that’s one of the things we recommend for coping with the psychological and emotional effects of afib.
Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely. And I’ll just piggyback on that too, I think just writing in a diary in general— you did mentioned in an episode diary. I tried doing that as well, it didn’t really work for me, but I know some people have emailed me saying for them it’s— for some people actually kind of tracking when they have the episodes it gives them kind of a sense of control. So that might not necessarily work for all people, like you said for some it actually might create anxiety, but for some people it might give them some sense of control so that’s another type of diary that you could do as well.
Steve Ryan: Yes. Another thing that seems to help a lot is yoga relaxation technique, meditation. There is a real interesting study done by doctor Lakkireddy at the University of Kansas. He had a bunch of his patients on monitors, and some of them were going to the same yoga class all together at the same time. And he noticed that, hey, these people, their afib stops during this period of time, all of them. And he said, what’s going on here?
So he found out that they were going to a yoga class, and all of a sudden the light bulb went on and he said, “Maybe I better check this out,” and he started doing testing. And basically what he did was he took these people – again, it’s a short study so it wasn’t really comprehensive – he took them and the for three months he assessed their frequency of their afib episode, how long they were, their anxiety, depression, their quality of life. Then months later he switched them to take in yoga classes for three. Specifically, this was iyengar yoga, which I don’t know about, but that’s what he particularly used.
I guess it uses breathing control exercises, yoga postures that you hold for 30 to 60 seconds and meditation relaxation techniques. And he found that doing these yoga exercises cut their episodes by 40 or 50%, and also improved their emotional well-being; their heartbeat and blood pressure dropped, their depression and anxiety eased. He didn’t know exactly why this happened but he speculates it. Here’s what he says—why he thinks yoga works to help relieve anxiety and depression and as well as afib symptoms; “Yoga can be actually a very good intervention here because yoga reduces the number of episodes of afib so that means it is decreasing the probability of you developing more systemic inflammation. It is also clearly established that doing yoga reduces the overall inflammatory burden on your body.”
Now a lot of people think that inflammation is one of the main causes of afib and that may be one of the reasons why yoga works, but he added later, “It’s not going to cure afib; it’s going to help. It’s going to improve the burden. It’s going to help your anxiety and depression and things like that but it only makes afib less burdensome, it isn’t a cure all.”
Travis Van Slooten: Yep. Now, I wonder what do you think; would you get the same benefits from doing light exercise like brisk walks and the like? I wonder if you get the same…
Steve Ryan: Oh yeah. Now, walking is very good. Walking at the same time of the day 20 minutes with the fresh air, and that is very relaxing and can be a great help to just relieving overall anxiety and depression, and improving blood pressure. Again, whenever you do anything like yoga, like we always recommend, always check with your doctor first before you do anything like this. It may seem that’s not going to cause any problem but you should always talk to your doctor about this to make sure everything is kosher.
Travis Van Slooten: Well, especially if you’re in persistent afib and you’re already having issues breathing or whatever because you’re in afib — absolutely. Awesome. Other things you mentioned on your website Steve were natural remedies, lavender oil, aromatherapy. I never did that.
Steve Ryan: Travis, I forgot one thing. Can I go back?
Travis Van Slooten: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Steve Ryan: I forgot to mention a meditation technique called mindfulness. This is advocated by Harvard Pilgrim nurse case manager Linda Bixby. And what it is — now this may sound counter-intuitive, but what it is is, instead of rebelling and being frightened by an afib attack is to sort of embrace it, look at it; what am I going through? How does this feel? Okay, I see, my heart is beating a little faster, I’m getting a little dizzy, whatever it takes.
It’s to observe rather than resist and worry. Let an afib attack run its course. And like this one guy says; “What I do is just take it in and letting myself feel the physical afib experience was actually relaxing.” Now, again, I’m not saying this will work for everyone but it’s a meditation technique that might help you. Okay, now let’s go back to what you mentioned about the natural remedies.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, you had mentioned on your site natural remedies like lavender oil, aromatherapy – again, I never got into that – Pharma GABA. I also want to add L Theanine. I like Suntheanine specifically. I found Pharma GABA and Suntheanine to help a little bit to kind of take the edge off anxiety. Also just throw some other ones here magnesium, relora, I’ve never heard of that actually. Chamomile and other herbal teas, and you have this other thing called Gotu Kola. I’m not even sure what that is, but talk to me about some of the natural remedies.
Steve Ryan: Yeah, I can’t speak from experience on this because I’ve been cured of afib for 20 years but I know I’ve tried lavender oil and it’s very soothing. It seems to smell really good and be relaxing. As far as the other one, Pharma GABA works on the same pathway as chemical things like Xanax and Valium but it doesn’t have all the negative side effects and it’s not addictive. It’s a bioidentical form of GABA which is gamma-aminobutyric acid. It’s a calming agent. It sort of calms your nerves.
Travis Van Slooten: And like I said, I’ve tried that. I actually was taking that up until recently just to kind of take the edge off. Supplements are so different than drugs. With supplements you don’t feel like an immediate hit like you do with a drug. I just want people listening to this, if you’re taking any of these supplements it’s not something that you’re going to pop and you’re going to feel right away, it’s usually kind of a gradual thing that you actually kind of have— it takes time actually for the effect the kick in, and by that I mean taking it kind of daily. But I don’t know if it ever really worked or not, I just took it. I seemed to be more calm than not, but I don’t know…Who knows, it could have been a placebo effect for all I know. But yeah, these are all things that people should have on their radar as potential ways to help them with their…
Steve Ryan: It’s worth a try.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely.
Steve Ryan: I mentioned Xanax; I should preface this by saying Xanax does have anti-arrhythmic properties but it’s addictive so you’ve got to be careful of it. There have been testimonials from people who take Xanax on a regular basis. I can’t recommend that again because it is addictive. Pharma GABA might be a better alternative for that.
The others I mentioned relora I have never tried it, I really have no idea. It’s supposed to reduce cortisol levels and promote feelings of relaxation. Chamomile tea, that’s been well known to reduce irritability and headaches and abdominal pain coming from anxiety. What you do is you substitute chamomile tea for caffeinated beverage or take 60 drops of chamomile tincture in two ounces of water four times a day before and after meals or add two drops of concentrated chamomile essential oil to a hot bath at night. Again, those are things that you can do that aren’t going to cause you any medical problems most likely, again, everybody is different.
And in terms of Gotu Kola, I really have not had any experience with that. It’s supposed to restore health to brain and nerve cells by promoting blood circulation to the brain which has a calming effect. And as you know, afib reduces blood circulation to the brain, so anything that improves blood circulation to the brain should be a help.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll just say too with the magnesium, you could take that as an oral supplement or a spray. But another thing that I actually use even today – and I’m not suffering from afib, knock on wood, thanks to my ablation – but I will do foot soaks with magnesium in the water, and I find that actually very relaxing.
Steve Ryan: Epsom salt baths.
Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely, very relaxing.
Steve Ryan: The one thing you need to be careful of is don’t go whole hog on magnesium right away because excess magnesium if your body isn’t ready for it can produce diarrhea which defeats the purpose of the magnesium.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, exactly.
Steve Ryan: So take it easy. If you use magnesium, start it gradually and work up to ideally 600 or 800 mg of magnesium a day.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah absolutely. I want to segway here and get into the meds just a little bit because you’d mentioned it. Again, I’m not a big advocate of meds but there’s no doubt there is a time and place for them. You mentioned Xanax. One of the meds that I was prescribed and that I even take today from time to time is Ativan, but these are drugs as you’ve mentioned can be highly addictive so you’ve got to be really careful about them.
And typically when doctors prescribe these they’re very careful about how they prescribe it and they’re very careful to monitor how much you’re taking. But these are drugs at that, you know, like I said, I’m not a big fan of them but a lot of people — I know I get emails from a lot of people that say Xanax and Ativan helps them a great deal particularly during an episode. It just helps calm them and relax them. So I don’t want to discount meds. Again, it’s not something I recommend, but it is something certainly worth considering because they might in fact play a role for some people.
Steve Ryan: Again, this goes along with counseling. If afib is really bothering you, especially if you’re a guy, don’t hesitate to get professional counseling and they will indicate to you maybe if you need meds to take or that kind of thing. But guys especially we tend to tough it out, “I don’t have to put up with this.” Get professional counseling if it helps, just someone to talk to about what you’re going through with afib and your anxieties and what you’re worried about and how it’s affecting your family and how to cope with it. That can be important, so don’t hesitate to get professional counseling. It can be very helpful.
Travis Van Slooten: Huge. And one of my readers had emailed me the other day actually. I had posted a question on Facebook and just asked hey, what do you guys do to combat anxiety? One woman contacted me and said she had tremendous success with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. And so I kind of looked into that a little bit, and it turns out that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is one of the most effective natural ways to combat anxiety. So that’s definitely counseling and specifically cognitive behavioral therapy; these are things that definitely you want to have on your list.
Steve Ryan: Yes, yes indeed, good.
Travis Van Slooten: And you mentioned professional counseling, and on your site Steve you also have afib support volunteers. Now, these aren’t professional counselors. Tell me a little bit about this program.
Steve Ryan: Well, professional counseling is one thing, but these people are sort of like friends who have had afib. They’re not professional counselors, they’re just friends you can talk to and share experiences with. And we have about 60 or 70 people on our website from all around the world who volunteer their time to talk to people and to be – how shall I say it – afib friends; someone they can talk to about what they’re going through because they’ve been through the same experience.
Not all of them have been cured; some are still in afib. So you’re getting a wide spectrum of different people with different experiences. But that is very helpful. And we also have something that I don’t—well, let me talk about it and you’ll see what I mean.
We have a positive thought prayer group, an afib positive thought prayer group. Now what that means, if people are so inclined, what I do for instance when I go to church on Sunday I will have the names of people who are coming up for an ablation and I will ask people at church to pray for them, and if someone, let’s say, is coming up for an ablation and they join the positive thought prayer group they will get emails and prayers and positive thoughts from people all around the world.
It’s very…well, I’ve experienced it myself. I recently had a colon surgery and I said to myself “Oh, gee wiz, why don’t I use this positive thought prayer group. You know, it’s not a fib but they can certainly be of help to me.” So I sent my information into them, and I was moved to tears by all the wonderful responses I got from people. Obviously, since I started the program I’m probably going to get more responses than the average person, but nevertheless, it was really heartwarming.
I mean it brings tears to my eyes right now thinking about all the wonderful people who emailed me and who prayed for me and who thought positive thoughts about me when I had my surgery. It’s really wonderful.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, and I’ll just attest to that because I’m actually on that list and so I get the emails that come through periodically. And you’re right though, I mean it’s very powerful. And you mentioned you might get more responses than someone else but I’ll just say that someone else actually they’ll get a lot of responses. It’s a very positive program, and I highly, highly recommend it. Now if they want to do the afib support volunteer or this positive thought prayer group, they just go to your website, Steve? I assume there’s a link to these two different things.
Steve Ryan: Yes, they have a link there that they can sign up for. Right now we don’t have a coordinator for the support volunteers, but we do have a great coordinator for the positive thought prayer group. But they still are functioning very well and people can make use of those resources.
Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely. And the beauty of those types of resources—because the other thing I wanted to mention on our list here Steve, was list support from friends and family.
Steve Ryan: Yes indeed.
Travis Van Slooten: Well, that’s definitely important, but one of the things that I hear from a lot of people, and I’m one of them, friends and family, you know, they can only take you so far because if they can’t empathize what you’re going through. Afib is such a unique condition that so many people just have a real hard time kind of understanding. So sometimes even though you reach out to friends and family you can still feel so isolated because they don’t really know what to tell you or how to support you. And that’s the beauty of your support volunteer group and the positive thought prayer group; these are people that have been there, they know exactly what you’re going through.
Steve Ryan: It’s not like you’re bleeding or you have a broken leg; it’s hard for your family to identify with what you’re going through. You need to realize that afib is going to affect you not only emotionally and mentally but socially as well. Maybe not necessarily your immediate family, but your friends, your co-workers; you need to sit down and talk to them and explain what atrial fibrillation is like and ask for understanding and try to communicate to them what you’re going through, because people go to work and all of a sudden they can’t do anything anymore because their brain is in a fog because if their afib. It’s really scary when you have afib, and you need to help your friends and support people understand what you’re going through. That’s very important.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, and it can be very easy to get into this rut where you get into a situation where you start to isolate yourself from your friends and family, particularly if you have persistent afib where you’re constantly feeling like crap, you know, you got friends inviting you out to do things and go golfing with you or whatever and you can’t because you’re in afib. You get in the situation where you’re “No, I can’t go.” And like you said, it’s not a good idea to keep things to yourself; communicate with your friends and family, let them know, “Hey, this is what’s going on. I’m not trying to be antisocial but I just kind of feel like crap right now.” Because if they understand more it’s just going to help you in these situations.
Steve Ryan: Yes.
Travis Van Slooten: Let’s see here; you mentioned again the positive thought prayer group, and with that, you know, just religion and prayer can help a lot of people. I’m a Christian, I go to church regularly, I read the Bible daily. I try to make a point to listen to inspiring sermons on a daily basis, and I make it a point to meditate on God’s words every day if I can. So I don’t want to discount—I know some people may not be religious, but for a lot of us religion and prayer can go a long way in relieving anxiety and fear.
Steve Ryan: Yeah, most of the people on the positive thought prayer a-fib websites are Christians but not all; many are of other religions, many have no religion. There have been studies that show that positive thoughts by itself can help other people, can help them improve their health. There have been studies on that. It’s not just a ‘we’re just making it up’ kind of thing; it’s really does have an effect on people.
Travis Van Slooten: Absolutely. And then the final thing, Steve, I think that can help relieve anxiety and fear and all these negative emotions and mental challenges is – and it’s going to sound kind of weird – but medical devices accessories can go a long way. And I’ll just give you some examples from my end, and Steve you may have some as well from your readers and followers of your website, but one of my readers sent me an email; she wears a medical ID bracelet that she pushes a button and it calls 911 and she says that just helps her – she’s an elderly lady with afib – and she says that just gives her a sense of security and control that if something happens she can click on this thing and help will be on its way.
Others have had implantable heart monitors; and just knowing that your heart’s being monitored and so if anything weird goes on beyond afib the doctor is going to be on the other line monitoring what’s going on with your heart.
And of course, I’m a huge fan of Alivecor’s Kardia heart monitor. That thing, I cannot tell you Steve how much that got me through my afib episodes; just having that device there to kind of walk me through what was going on because as I was going through an episode I could grab my Kardia heart monitor and confirm I was in afib—because I was on pill in the pocket therapy at that time so I would pop my flecainide, but before I would do that I wanted to make sure I was actually in afib so I used this monitor, the Kardia monitor, and then after the flecainide kicked in and I cardioverted I would use the monitor again just to confirm that I was out of afib so that device was a savior for me. So these medical devices can go a long way in giving you a sense of control over this condition.
Steve Ryan: Yes, and now they are developing a watch that you wear, and you just hit two buttons on that watch and it tells everything that’s going on. It’s perhaps one of the best things that has happened to patient care in maybe the last 10 years. Why? Almost everyone over 65 should have some kind of testing for atrial fibrillation, and instead of going through EKG and maybe there is nothing going on and having a 30-day monitor or something like that, you just put on this watch and it tells you all that information, and it tells the doctor everything. From a public health aspect, if we can get this going there may come a day when no one has a silent afib anymore because everyone who turns 65 gets one of these watches and it can tell the doctors whether they’re in afib or not. It’s really one of the most amazing breakthroughs in medical therapy for afib that I’ve seen. We’re not there yet, but we’re close.
Travis Van Slooten: Oh, yeah.
Steve Ryan: We’re close.
Travis Van Slooten: And I would say we’re rapidly heading there though so that’s the good part of that. The medical devices are just—they’re awesome. Well, Steve is there any other summary thoughts here on this topic that you want to…
Steve Ryan: Well, I really want to mention something. A lady, Pat Truesdale, said she keeps a log of everything that seems to bring on her afib. And she kept this log: ice, drinks, caffeine, every meal, going to sleep at night, and she also developed symptoms that are indications of afib coming: high blood pressure, belching, heartburn where she can anticipate whether she’s going to develop an afib attack. And I encourage anyone who might want to read her story on our website –they might be helped by this. Now, she also has a unique story in that she’s probably the one who has had the fastest catheter ablations in history. She develops afib, eight weeks later she had an ablation and was afib free. I’ve never heard of something happening that fast.
Travis Van Slooten: That is fast. So she’s afib-free today then?
Steve Ryan: Yes.
Travis Van Slooten: Oh wow, that’s fantastic. Definitely I’ll link to her story because I know which one you’re talking about there so we’ll definitely link to that. Awesome. All right, well perfect. Steve I appreciate you joining me today and talking about this because it is a very, very important topic. I know when I threw this question out on Facebook it was the most responded to thing I’ve ever put on Facebook.
Steve Ryan: Really?
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, there are a lot of people that struggle with the mental and emotional challenges with afib. So I’m glad we’re having this discussion, and Steve…
Steve Ryan: They won’t get much help from their doctors. That’s one of the problems.
Travis Van Slooten: And even the good doctor’s like my local EP is a fantastic doctor, I absolutely love this guy, but he gives me zero information on this stuff. So even as good as he is they’re just not trained I don’t think to do that stuff. Is that the issue?
Steve Ryan: Yes. That’s the issue, yeah. In other words, psychiatry, that’s another field for them.
Travis Van Slooten: Fantastic. Steve, as always, thanks for joining me today.
Steve Ryan: You’re welcome.
Travis Van Slooten: All right, bye now.
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I’ve known for some time that Steve Ryan is not a medical doctor and for me, that’s what makes his work all the more rewarding. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, but I do admire the man for being a seeker and allowing differing viewpoints on his site.
We won’t get to the root of this condition by continually criticizing and limiting debate. For me personally, I do agree with David on a few points, though I’m not a fan of negativity. I do believe afib is a symptom of an unknown or if you’re lucky, known underlying condition. I still cant quite believe I found mine and how simple it was to treat, now celebrating over a year NSR. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple for many others battling weekly.
Remind me again what was the cause of your afib – and what you’re doing in general (don’t need every detail) to keep afib at bay?
Travis, my adrenals most likely. Cortisol levels were high at night and low during the day. Taking adrenal support and cortisol control supplements. 1 year plus in NSR with few ectopic beats.
Wow, so much misleading information. You don’t even tell uninformed people that Dr. Ryan has a Ph.D., not a medical doctorate, and is no more qualified to talk about a-fib than you or me or the guy at the deli who did a lot of research.
Today, most forward-thinking cardiologists and eps will tell you that afib is most certainly NOT a disease. Rather, it is a SYMPTOM — likely of inflammation caused by diet, stress, obesity, lack of exercise, too much exercise, poor sleep habits, smoking, alcoholism, or other 21st-century Western maladies.
Some medical experts are also now suggesting that ablation is an expensive placebo.
I know everyone is trying to sell books and ads on websites and solutions that make them appear to be experts. But the first thing my cardiologist told me — one of the best in Manhattan — when I had my first episode at 38 is “There’s nothing wrong with your heart. You need to get your head in order.”
Unless you have concomitant health issues or are over 60, a-fib is like a migraine you can control with healthy choices and mindfulness. Sure, it may happen intermittently, but what doesn’t in life? If I had 26 12-hour episodes a year, that would still be more than 90% of my life in sinus rhythm. Yet, we run to doctors and ers and take pills and have invasive treatments — all of which have conflicting data on their efficacy — for half that amount of a-fib.
It if depresses you or gives you anxiety, you have a much larger health problem that you need to address — how to fix your mental health and improve your perspective on living and life so you can enjoy what really matters and ignore what doesn’t.
Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. You are correct. Steve is not a medical doctor but he brings more to the table than a guy in a deli:) He’s been knee-deep in the a-fib industry for 20 years. He attends a-fib conferences every year (and has been for years), has close relationships with many EPs across the country, has written a book on a-fib (which is endorsed by many EPs), and has helped thousands of afibbers through his website over the many years his site has been online.
I disagree with just about everything you’ve outlined. A-fib is not as simple or benign as you make it sound. It is a very complex condition and not just simply a symptom of inflammation and/or other health issues. I suspect you’re a huge fan of Dr. Mandrola. He also naively believes that a-fib is a “simple” condition that can be treated by just losing weight, living healthy, etc. For some, that may be the case (at least for a while) but for the vast majority of afibbers no matter how much weight they lose and no matter how healthy they try to live they still battle afib. The idea that you can cure afib by losing weight and living healthy is ridiculous.
Finally, I think you undermine the real emotional and mental challenges that come with afib. It sounds like you’re a very strong person and afib doesn’t affect you at all. That’s fantastic. I actually envy you. I wish I could be at peace with my afib. But again, for the vast majority of afibbers it’s a constant emotional and mental battle. That’s exactly why Steve and I put this episode together – to provide a variety of ways afibbers can try to overcome those emotional and mental battles.
I never block or censor comments on this blog but I encourage you to find more positive ways to contribute to this blog if you choose to leave future comments. Instead of disparaging me, Steve, and those with afib, I encourage you to find ways to share the things you’ve done to overcome afib and the mental and emotional challenges that come with it.
God Bless and I wish you the very best!
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