They say that 10% of people who are 65 and over have atrial fibrillation. It’s a tough situation to be in, because you’re rather damned if you do and damned if you don’t, as I'll explain. 

I’m 70, and I don’t have it. Of course, there are no guarantees that I am never going to get it. But, since it could happen to anyone, I think it’s good to have a plan as to what you’re going to do if you're faced with it.

I won’t elaborate about what it is because you can find that online. But basically, it’s a disturbance of the electrical system of the heart in which errant signals overcome the normal sinus rhythm. Usually, it results in a very fast heart rate, but it can also manifest as a very slow heart rate, if very few signals are getting through to the ventricles. But, whether it's fast or slow, the heart beat is always irregular in atrial-fib. 

Caffeine alone can throw a person into a-fib, and I’ve seen that happen. The same is true for alcohol. Obesity, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and sleep apnea are all considered risk factors. Bad valves can also do it. But, it is certainly true that sometimes a person without any of those risk factors can go into a-fib.

Now: what are you going to do about it? I’ll tell you what I would do if it happened to me, and I am only speaking for myself. I’m not offering advice to anyone, and I am not taking responsibility for anyone. I want to be clear about that. I’m just telling you what I would do for me. 

The first thing they usually want to do is put the person on heavy duty blood thinners. I means ones like Eloquis, although sometimes they still use the old workhorse Warfarin AKA rat poison. The purpose is to prevent strokes. The way the blood swirls in a-fib makes it easier for the blood to clot, and clots can travel to the brain and cause strokes.

I would not take any of those heavy duty blood thinners. If it were me, I would take natural blood thinners, such as Curcumin from turmeric, fish oil, Vitamin E, and I would eat a very healthy diet, and I mean with a lot of fresh fruits, raw salad greens, cruciferous vegetables, raw nuts, and beans. I already eat that way, but I mean that I would be motivated to be even stricter than I usually am. And that diet itself can be very blood-thinning. It’s pretty damn powerful, and if you added the natural blood-thinners I mentioned, I should think that it’s all the blood-thinning I would ever need or want. But again, I’m just speaking for me.

The reason I don’t like the idea of taking those prescription blood thinners is because they are toxic and risky- and they’re risky even for working. There is so much risk of bleeding- bleeding anywhere. Bleed in your gut; bleed in your brain. What’s the point of preventing an ischemic stroke only to have a hemorrhagic one?

So, I would go the natural route on that, and if they tell me I’d be taking a chance, I’d tell them that I’d be taking a chance if I did what they recommend too.  And, I wouldn’t lose sleep either because I’ve known people who have had atrial fib for years and years who haven’t done anything therapeutic and never had a stroke. I believe that, ultimately, diet and lifestyle are the key, even in a-fib. 

And keep in mind that the blood-thinners don’t fix the problem. They’re just supposed to be an insurance policy against having strokes; that’s all. But, they are not an unmixed blessing, and they don’t come with a guarantee. Besides the profound risk of bleeding, including lethal bleeding, there is also the risk of rebound clotting. If you stop it or if you forget to take it, or if you just run out of it, that could trigger the very thing that you are trying to prevent. You’d be walking a tightrope. It’s not for me. Not going to do it.

What about taking anti-arrhythmic drugs, such as Amiodarone? No. No way. I would not take any of those drugs. Again, I am only speaking for myself. I’m not telling you what to do. I don’t think any of those drugs are worth a damn. I’m not going to go into it except to say that you can’t get to “normal” when it comes to heart rhythm by taking those drugs. And even if you got to something that kinda/sorta looked normal, it wouldn’t be. It wouldn’t be close to normal. So again; no way; not going to do it.

What about cardioversion, where they shock the heart with an electrical current to make it stop, hoping that when it starts again, it reverts to normal rhythm?  Yes, I would consider that, if they thought I was a good candidate for it. And I am saying that because I have known people who have done it with success.

What about taking beta blockers or calcium channel blockers to slow the heart? No, I wouldn’t do that. There is nothing attractive about that. There is nothing good about the outcome from that.   

What about the ablation techniques where they destroy the cells that that they think are generating the errant impulses? I don't say I wouldn't consider it, but it's an extreme thing to do, and it carries plenty of risk. If my a-fib was just occasional, I think I'd rather live with it. And again, if they tell me it's risky to do that, I'll tell them that the ablation is very risky as well.  I guarantee you that if I am having a decent quality of life living with a-fib, I definitely would not do the ablation. And, I would definitely not get the Watchman implant, and that's based on the advice of cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola.

So, the bottom line is that if they thought I was a good candidate for cardioversion, I would very likely do it, but I just might pass on everything else medical and just live with the a-fib, especially if it wasn't interfering with my life to any great extent.  

Now, hopefully, I am going to finish my life without ever having a-fib. No one in my family has ever had it that I know of. And I don’t have any of the risk factors for it either. But, I’ve encountered quite a few people who have had it. And, I’ve been the one to inform them that they have it, where they didn’t know they had it, and I’m the one who told them. And I don’t tell them definitively. I just say, “I think you may be in a-fib. You better see a cardiologist.” And so far, I have been right every time. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m just pointing out that I’ve seen it.

Atrial fibrillation is a heavy thing to contend with, and that’s why I’ve given it some thought ahead of time- when I’m not under pressure. And again, I hope very much that I never have to contend with it, and I hope the same for you.