Are Weight Loss Drugs the Answer to Our Afib & Heart Health Issues?

July 26, 2023

navy blue pill bottle on its side spilling out pills

Unfortunately, heart disease remains stubbornly prevalent in the United States and worldwide. Cardiovascular issues remain the leading cause of death in the United States despite incredible advances in therapies and technologies to treat heart disease. Cardiovascular disease has many possible underlying causes, but one of the most preventable and prevalent is excess weight and obesity. About 2/3 of the US population is overweight, and over 1/3 is obese. These trends have risen over the past several decades; unfortunately, we don’t see much relief.

The effects on the heart are staggering. Excess weight causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes, all significant risk factors for developing or worsening cardiovascular disease. Many are also risk factors for atrial fibrillation / Afib and other heart rhythm abnormalities.

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Zone 2 Training – An Exercise for Most Afib Patients

July 12, 2023

exercise equipment including dumbells, jump rope and water bottle on table

Many Afib patients are rightfully concerned about exercising with a heart concern top of mind. After all, heavy exercise may be a trigger for an Afib episode. Further, there is often the fear on the patient’s part that exercise can or will cause a heart attack. While exercise itself is not the culprit, this is a legitimate concern because the increased blood flow necessitated by heavy exercise can worsen symptoms of existing cardiovascular problems.

That said, it’s important to mention, before we continue, that any new exercise regimen, no matter how mild, should be discussed with your electrophysiologist or cardiologist to ensure suitability.

Zone two training, as it is known, can be one of the most effective exercise regimens for patients with atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular concerns. Let’s start by understanding what exactly zone two training is. This form of training is not a new fad in the exercise world but a tried-and-true pursuit that many of the top athletes worldwide employ. And no, it’s not high intensity; quite the opposite. Zone two training aims to maintain a consistent 70 to 80% of maximum heart rate for between 45 and 60 minutes. While a heart rate monitor can give you this exact measurement, we often approximate this zone by the patient’s ability to maintain a conversation during exercise.

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Why Hydration Is So Important for Your Heart (And Afib)

June 28, 2023

man and woman drinking out of water bottles side by side

With all the ailments we as Americans have and the medicines and procedures available to treat them, we often overlook some of the easiest, most accessible, and most important lifestyle changes that can make a significant difference. Staying hydrated and getting enough water falls into this category. A substantial portion of our bodies are made up of water, so staying hydrated is, clearly, very important.

While we all know the signs of severe dehydration, it’s often difficult to remind ourselves that there are more subtle signals that we may need extra water. Importantly, even a 1 or 2% deficit in hydration can make a huge difference physically and cognitively. We may think of hydration as only necessary during periods of heavy exercise; however, water improves our general physical health. Have you ever tried taking a glass of water when you feel sluggish during the day? For most, this offers an almost immediate boost. Dehydration has been linked to feelings of tiredness as well as feelings of hunger. Both have detrimental effects.

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Gender Differences of BMI & Waist Circumference as Atrial Fibrillation Risk Predictors

June 14, 2023

woman measuring waist with measuring tape
When we discuss cardiovascular disease, including atrial fibrillation or Afib, we often talk about risk factors to help us predict whether our patients need screenings and determine how soon we begin diagnostic testing. It may seem that with the many and varied causes of atrial fibrillation, including the fact that it can affect people of all ages and fitness levels, Afib is just one of those things you ultimately get and eventually treat. However, we know of certain factors that can help predict the risk of developing it. One such risk, and something that is unfortunately only getting worse in the United States and around the world, is excess weight and obesity. As a leading cause of longer-term cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (or the narrowing of arteries due to plaque formation), type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea, the excess weight represents a significant risk factor for developing and worsening Afib and other cardiac rhythm abnormalities.

An interesting 2021 study out of the Netherlands tried to understand the degree to which body fat distribution in the form of waist circumference and BMI or the body mass index might predict Afib development.¹ And does it matter if you’re a man or a woman?

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Comparing LAA Closure Devices: Amulet vs. Watchman

May 24, 2023

3D model of a heart in a doctors office

If you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation / Afib, you’ve probably been told you have a significantly increased risk of stroke – a five-fold increase in risk. Managing this stroke risk is the primary goal we, as electrophysiologists, have when treating Afib. While our minimal invasive cardiac catheter ablation procedures are very effective at treating paroxysmal and certain persistent cases of Afib, they cannot reverse the existing risk of stroke because that ultimately comes from a small outpouching of the heart known as the left atrial appendage for LAA. This feature of the heart, whose existence we don’t fully understand, causes outsized effects on the risk of stroke.

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The AHA Ranks Popular Diets from Best to Worst with Few Surprises

May 10, 2023

Heart shaped bowl filled with fruit and veggies next to prescription paper and blue dumbell

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently weighed in on the many varied diet plans available today, some heavily promoted by social media influencers and other celebrities and personalities. While the results of the studies and the AHA’s statement are not entirely surprising, it’s worth discussing the diets that are out there, how one should diet, if one should diet, and ultimately, what these findings mean for how you lose weight and change your lifestyle.

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Tips for Before and After an Ablation to Improve Odds of Success

March 22, 2023

Woman sipping coffee holding coffee cup

The prospect of an atrial fibrillation / Afib ablation procedure can feel daunting, especially if this is your first major interventional procedure. But let’s get right to it: cardiac catheter ablations are very safe, effective (in the properly selected patient), and do not require significant downtime after the procedure. They are also excellent options because they do not preclude other therapies, like medication if you need additional treatment to address a particularly stubborn arrhythmia.

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Is Afib Dangerous?

March 8, 2023

Woman experiencing Afib holding chest

If you’ve recently experienced your first atrial fibrillation or Afib episode, it may have been a scary experience, and you will likely be asking yourself if Afib is, in fact, dangerous. After all, if the attack was relatively strong, it’s hard to think anything less than “absolutely, it is dangerous!” However, the answer to this question is less straightforward than you think. Yes, the mechanics of Afib puts a significant strain on your heart, but your heart is also a very resilient muscle, and there are plenty of other factors that will affect how your body ultimately handles the condition now and in the future.

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Comparing Traditional Pacemakers to Leadless Pacemakers. Is One Better?

February 15, 2023

Xray shows a patient with a traditional pacemaker

For decades, traditional pacemakers have been the gold standard in heart-pacing for bradycardia, also known as a slow heartbeat. This involves placing a small battery, known as a pulse generator, under a flap of skin in the chest muscle and connecting it to the heart with physical wires or leads. These pacemakers are very effective, but as with many things in the field of cardiology and electrophysiology, there is room for improvement. In our field especially, there is a significant technological and clinical push behind innovations and improvement of devices and techniques.

The result has been newer technology in the form of wireless or leadless pacemakers. These pacemakers are fully self-contained and attached to the heart’s ventricle, meaning they do not need wires to deliver their electrical impulses.

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Comparing Cardiac Catheter Ablation Success During Paroxysmal Versus Persistent and Long-Standing Persistent Afib

February 1, 2023

stethoscope and fake heart lying on top of a paper EKG reading

When we diagnose patients with Afib, we must discuss the difference between varying stages of the condition, as this can be significant in the decision-making continuum. Before we get into the success rates of cardiac catheter ablation between stages of Afib, it is essential that we define the progression of the condition and how it manifests in the patient.

In most cases, Afib begins as occasional or paroxysmal. This broadly means patients experience a couple of episodes, lasting for 30 seconds or more but ending rapidly (within seconds, hours, or even a couple of days), in a week. Because it is occasional, many patients wait too long to see an electrophysiologist. Or they visit their primary care physician or general cardiologist for an EKG. Yet often, this EKG shows nothing wrong because paroxysmal Afib episodes are irregular and unpredictable. EKGs only offer a snapshot of the heart during the office visit. The result is that many patients are sent home without a definitive diagnosis.

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