this story ends well

By Louise Sukle
Editor & Publisher
Woman Newspapers

The heart is a wonderously faithful creation of nature. Its comforting thump accompanies us for the duration of our lives.

There was a time in my life a few years back, when I was faced with a situation where that gentle, steady beat suddenly flip-flopped, skipped, and felt like it was banging
against my chest wall. I’d had short episodes of fluttering heartbeats for several years, but this time the palpitations were so intense I couldn’t ignore them.

“Get yourself together,” I told myself and kept working, “I’ll shake whatever this is.” Yet the lightheadedness and unsettling pounding wouldn’t go away. “Probably just a drop in blood pressure,” reasoned Dr. Louise. I stopped by Family Medicine so they could get a reading on my BP. My blood pressure: 110/70, perfect. My EKG results: troubling.

The doctor’s office called 911, and an ambulance took me to PinnacleHealth Harrisburg Hospital where I arrived with an IV in my arm delivering meds that restored my heart to its reassuring, rhythmic thump-thump again. After several hours, a doctor delivered the news: Atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibwhat?

Simply put, the condition causes one part of the heart to beat out of sync with the other. My palpitations don’t actually hurt, but the flip-flopping is hard to ignore.

I was intrigued. I’m in my 50s, a non-smoker and occasional drinker and eat a reasonably healthy diet. My cardiologist ordered several tests. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can be a sign of other health problems affecting the heart; thyroid disease, high blood pressure, valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure. In my case, I developed AFib for no identifiable reason. (Go to page 11 to learn more about AFib.)

So, for now, my AFib management is in a holding pattern. I didn’t respond to drug therapy but overall my condition hasn’t really changed my life much. The Afib is still happening in the background - it feels like a “fluttering” in my heart - but causes few problems other than occasional fatigue. However, I know my symptoms will never disappear for good.
Heart disease is the #1 killer of American women. That hit home. So, I wrote this column to serve as a reminder we have the power to lower our risk for heart disease. Make a commitment to take action. Knowledge equals life and these pages are full of great information.

Let’s spread the word.