Klaas has already experiencing heart problems since he was about forty years old. ‘From time to time I felt that my heart beat changed, from regular to irregular. It usually only lasted a few hours and therefore I did not worry immediately. It was mainly an unpleasant sensation, and tiring. I was able to feel exactly when it started and stopped, but I did not allow it to influence my life.’
The deciding moment for Klaas
Klaas did start to worry when the symptoms increased; the atrial fibrillation occurred more frequently and each episode was lasting longer. ‘I was around fifty years of age when I decided to see my GP about my symptoms. I cannot remember what he said, but in any case I did not do anything with it.’ Until 10 years ago.
‘One morning I wanted to tell my wife about the neighbour’s new car, but I could hardly speak at all. She immediately saw that something was wrong and called the ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, the symptoms had already disappeared, but I did go to the hospital with them.’ In the hospital the doctor said Klaas had suffered a TIA as a result of the atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation can cause the formation of a blood clot in the heart and this may result in a TIA or, in the worst case, a stroke.
The cardiologist attending to Klaas at the hospital prescribed an anticoagulant and an antihypertensive. ‘Now I take these every day. They keep my blood pressure under control and decrease the chance of having a TIA or stroke.
Do you know when to ask for medical help for a person who is taking blood thinners?
To the gym three times a week
Klaas does not allow the atrial fibrillation to influence his life. He does take extra care of his health though. ‘Until recently I ran twice a week and I even ran in marathons. Exercise is especially very good when you suffer from atrial fibrillation. Now I definitely go to the gym three times a week; more than I did before.’ Klaas has also started to drink less alcohol: ‘I notice that my heart already starts to become restless when I drink more than two glasses of wine a day.’
If Klaas hadn’t been talking to his wife
Klaas thinks it is frightening that you can have a TIA or even a stroke without yourself knowing that it is happening. ‘If I hadn’t been talking to my wife, I probably would not have known. And I would probably have suffered from atrial fibrillation for much longer.’
Do you recognise this story or do you still have questions about atrial fibrillation? Please contact your doctor.