Had a great visit with my cardiologist in Carbondale last week (Dr. Al-Dallow, a wonderful physician) and got some good news. My atrial fibrillation was likely brought about by stress and things I put into my system. It’s very unlikely to return if I clean up my act.
Here’s a very nice NIH animation, complete with links and an audio description, of how the heart works and how to read an EKG.
My A-fib came on a Monday after the first whole weekend I’d taken off in nearly a year. That weekend, making up for lost time, I’d exercised heavily, and drank too much. Monday was very stressful (as usual) and I managed to drink a lot of coffee and threw in some pseudoephedrine for good measure. The cold lake water I plunged into after work was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I my heart’s electical system went haywire.
The good news is that, if I stay off alcohol and caffeine for a while, I’ll be fine. Bad news is this will be Steve’s Summer of No Beer or Coffee.
As Dr. Al-Dallow very ably put it, stimulating your heart from the sinoatrial nerve that is supposed to command it (exercise) is good, but bathing it in chemicals that are also telling it to beat faster can confuse things and lead to a mis-coordination of its nervous system.
Other good news is that exercise, besides being generally good for me, cannot induce this sort of fibrillation, so I can work out as much and as hard as I want. A heart beating rapidly from hard exercise cannot go into A-fib because it is dominated by the correct nerve stimulus. Interesting.
I’ve put an average of twenty miles a day on my bike in the four weeks since the event, for nearly 350 total, and that feels good. Now I have an excuse, besides some vague future benefit, to make time for that exercise.
A little irony. Last year, before I made the decision to expand my business, I promised myself this would be the year, before I turn 50 in October, I’d clean up my act and focus on fitness and getting some weight off. Work be damned. All that went out the window last summer when we expanded. Now that I’ve had a stern warning, my priorities are back in their proper place.