After receiving treatment from Michigan Heart Ann Arbor for his Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), in late 2020, Rod Jenkins is now back to fly fishing, hiking, biking and most importantly, being able to keep up with his two-year-old granddaughter.
“She’s a bundle of energy, but now I can be part of her life and it feels great,” said Rod. “I’m also able to explore new trout streams to try out this spring… For the first time in 15 years, I’m back up to speed and off all medications.”
Rod is certainly not alone in facing the challenges of AFib.
What is AFib?
AFib is the most common type of heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, impacting up to 6.1 million people in the United States. AFib is an electrical problem of the heart that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
When someone has AFib, the electrical signals in the top chambers of the heart (or atria) have become irregular which can lead to a faster heart rate in the bottom chambers of the heart (or ventricles). When the heart isn’t effectively pumping blood through the body, normal activity can become tiring, make breathing challenging, or potentially cause dizziness.
Risk Factors of AFib
Common risk factors for AFib include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea, and heavy alcohol use. People can also develop AFib even if they don’t have any of these risk factors and lead a healthy lifestyle. This is why early treatment is the key to managing AFib. As an active, fitness enthusiast, Rod’s condition was unexpected, but he was fortunate to have a key ally in the team at Michigan Heart. They remained supportive through the years and kept pursuing new treatments that eventually resolved his AFib.
Rod’s path to recovery began in 2006 when he started experiencing classic AFib symptoms including being light-headed, shortness of breath and fatigue. Once diagnosed at Michigan Heart, he first attempted to manage his symptoms with medication and a common treatment that involved cauterizing or scarring the inside of the heart. This procedure sought to stop the electrical pulses that triggered his irregular heartbeat and caused many of the AFib symptoms he was experiencing.
That initial treatment did not deliver the desired result for Rod. He then turned to Jihn Han, MD and Robert Lyons, MD from Michigan Heart, who performed a hybrid convergent ablation procedure, an innovative, minimally invasive treatment that involves cauterizing both the inside and outside surfaces of the heart to halt uneven electrical pulses that were causing Rod’s AFib. Michigan Heart provided an additional tune up procedure to ensure Rod’s heart was performing perfectly.
“Over the past 15 years our ability to help patients with AFib has come a long way,” said Dr. Han. The development of procedures such as hybrid convergent ablation is a game changer.”
While medical progress and innovation continues to move forward, there is still no substitute for paying close attention to what your body is telling you and getting the necessary help as soon as an issue arises.
“The first line of defense against AFib is understanding the symptoms, but there are many people who don’t know the warning signs,” said Dr. Lyons. “That’s why it’s crucial to get regular check-ups to stop AFib before it stops you.”
The benefits of catching AFib early and getting effective treatment are life-changing.
“I’m so happy with the results and my quality of life right now and it’s all because of the Michigan Heart team at St. Joe’s,” said Rod. “I was being held hostage by AFib. I have my life back, which is wonderful!”
What causes AFib?
As people get older, their risk for AFib increases. Some people who lead a healthy lifestyle and don’t have any other medical conditions can still develop AFib. However, AFib has some common causes and risk factors. Such as:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart muscle problems
- Heart valve problems
- Lung disease
- Sleep apnea
- Scarring of the atrium
- Extreme physical stress
- Abnormal mineral levels
- High thyroid levels/Overactive thyroid
- Toxins – including alcohol and some drugs
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms tend to occur when the heart rate is too fast. A person may have no symptoms when the heart rate is normal. Although these symptoms may be uncomfortable and cause concern, they are not usually life threatening.
Only 60% of people with AFib have symptoms. The other 40% do not have symptoms.
- Irregular and fast heartbeats
- Heart palpitations (a pounding feeling in your chest)
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Lightheadedness or almost passing out
*If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack or medical emergency – call 911.
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