By: Kathy Webster, WomenHeart Champion, Midwest District Support Network Leader, former Board Chair
Did you know that women with AFib are more likely than men with AFib to have a stroke; Afib is the leading cause of debilitating stroke in women; and if left untreated, AFib can also lead to heart failure and chronic fatigue?
So what is AFib or atrial fibrillation you might ask? AFib, is a heart rhythm disorder in which the atria – the two upper chambers of the heart — fibrillate or beat rapidly and irregularly. I have been living with AFib for 25 years and as a WomenHeart Champion, District Support Network Leader, and former board chair of the organization, I am very passionate about educating women about this particular type of heart disease. This is why I attended the Get in Rhythm. Stay in Rhythm. Atrial Fibrillation Patient Conference held in Dallas, Texas on Aug. 3-5, 2018. As an A-Fib patient, I tried eagerly and earnestly to listen and learn to the medical providers at the conference, and here are some takeaways that I came away with.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), up to 6 million people in the United States are living with AFib, and that number is expected to increase as the population ages. Over the years, WomenHeart has worked closely with Mellanie True Hills, an AFib survivor and the CEO and founder of StopAfib.org. Her organization is committed to increasing awareness about AFib by helping survivors improve their quality of life and avoid AFib-related strokes. She even created AFib Awareness Month which is observed in September.
This is the third time I have represented WomenHeart at the Get in Rhythm.Stay in Rhythm conference. Each time, it has been well organized and includes an impressive group of cardiologists and thoracic surgeons. These medical experts shared a wealth of information about AFib, including the latest developments on medications and treatments. The sessions covered a variety of topics ranging from managing AFib risk factors ─ to digital health and monitoring of AFib ─ to addressing gender disparities around treatment for women versus men. Which is one of the issues that WomenHeart tries to tackle in its work every day.
I was excited to share our materials and resources on AFib which were well received by the conference participants. I gave out everything I had and could have given out more. This experience helps to confirm that more education about AFib is needed. I will continue to amplify this message and be a voice for the millions of women who are living with or at risk of heart disease.
The conference livestream is now available for free. Access 15 hours of content by signing up at https://getinrhythm.com.
I am a 79 year old woman, my first afib was when I was @ 9 years old (I called it my heart dancing) My mother was a smoker and I learned the connection to it being a trigger when getting in the car with her smoking. I learned very young the triggers and stayed away from them. Did not become a problem until in my 40’s then started on the med’s (none worked) cardo conversions many times, these worked at time but not last. Then followed over time ablations (4 different times) worked for awhile, the had first pacemaker, Did good (on coumadin for a while) First pacemaker replaced after 5 years, 2nd pacemaker lasted 9 years. Had a good 15 years no meds, just yearly checkup for pacemaker. Last November started having afib again. Dr’s wanted to try meds again (small dosages, same meds I had used before, none worked and side effects BAD. Went back on coumadin. My pacemaker was getting to time of replacement.So I learned about the new CRT-P pacemaker & AV Node ablation. I am a very active woman and could feel my energy level going down. Not ready for the rocking chair yet. I chose the new pacemaker & av node ablation, which was done April 2018. I had read all the negative comments about it and yes sometimes I do feel a little afib, I just ignore it, does not last long, does not cause SOB, and my energy came back. I check my coumadin at home, no big deal for me. I am interested in my quality of life more important than the length of life. With the technology today my pacemaker stays in constant touch with my doctors. I don’t fear I’m going to just drop dead from pacemaker not working. I feel I have my freedom back to do what I want to do, thanks to my new pacemaker. Live is a trade off in different ways, we have to make our own choices. Some good & others may not be what we would want but may help us keep our quality of life as good as possible, within our own circumstances. Maybe when I’m 90 I will use my rocking chair. I am so thankful that I had another option, and it is working for me.
What an interesting afib story you have, especially discovering it when you were so young. So glad to hear of your newfound freedom with your new pacemaker; that is great! We are so happy for you.
Perhaps you’d like to consider joining our patient forum so that you can connect with others. It is located at http://forum.stopafib.org/. You may want to post your story there to educate other people with afib, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience. Please email us at [email protected] if you need any help or have more questions.