Our Takeaways From Restart Your Heart, The Playbook For Thriving With Afib

To wrap up BioSig’s recognition of AFib awareness month, we are highlighting cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Aseem Desai’s playbook for thriving with AFib, Restart Your Heart, published in September of 2020. We believe that Dr. Desai’s book is a must-read for AFib patients, the loved ones of patients, or anybody who wants an easy-to-follow guide to understanding Atrial Fibrillation.

Why does this book matter? To quote Dr. Desai, “early detection and intervention are critical with this disease [AFib], and mass education of health care professionals is desperately needed.” (Desai. 86). AFib is a treatable condition, and we want to make sure that patients, caregivers, and health care professionals are aware of this and other excellent resources available, including stopafib.org, the Heart Rhythm Society, and the American Heart Association.

Here are some of our favorite highlights from Restart Your Heart:

Types of Atrial Fibrillation:

Restart Your Heart is broken into three parts: “Step 1: Be Informed, Step 2: Be Prepared, Step 3: Be in Control.” In Step 1, Dr. Desai describes the four types of Atrial Fibrillation:

  1. Paroxysmal: AFib comes and goes
  2. Persistent: AFib lasts for more than seven days or requires intervention to convert to sinus rhythm
  3. Long-standing persistent: Continuous AFib for more than one year
  4. Permanent: The patient and physician decide to stop further attempts to convert to sinus rhythm due to risk vs. reward of further intervention (Desai. 31)

An interesting takeaway from this section of the book is that these four stages of AFib are chronological. Dr. Desai invokes the phrase “AFib begets Afib” (Desai. 30); the sooner a patient and physician can address the AFib and hopefully return to a healthy Sinus Rhythm, the better. If a patient can catch AFib at the paroxysmal stage, that’s better than catching it at the persistent stage, which is better than at the long-standing persistent stage, and so on and so forth. In some ways, treating AFib is similar to treating forms of cancer, where treatments are most effective during the early stages.

Risk factors and triggers for Atrial Fibrillation:

Restart Your Heart notes several risk factors for Atrial Fibrillation. As we highlighted before, there are several factors, including high blood pressure, obesity, old age, diabetes, thyroid complications, alcoholism, and a family history of AFib. In his book, Dr. Desai provides an in-depth description of each of these risk factors and more, including premature atrial contractions, sleep apnea, valvular heart disease, and a synopsis of Atrial Fibrillation triggers.

Triggers do not cause the AFib disease, but they can cause a person who already has AFib (paroxysmal AFib can be used as an example) to go from a normal rhythm into Atrial Fibrillation. Dr. Desai covers AF triggers, including alcohol, caffeine, electrolyte deficiency, dehydration, poor sleep hygiene, stress, exercise, time of day, and eating. Again, these are triggers, not causes, but this is important to know for those living with AFib.

Technology for Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation:

Physicians agree that the sooner you can begin a treatment plan for AFib, the better. In the second chapter of his book, Dr. Desai describes the different technologies used to “catch the heart rhythm,” including holter monitors, event recorders, implantables, and the rapidly evolving and accessible monitors enabled on smartphones and smartwatches such as the Apple Watch’s EKG features. These tools are essential in identifying AFib sooner rather than later and are a key tool to informing therapeutic options.

Therapeutic Options:

The author provides descriptions of several treatment options available. He speaks about antiarrhythmic drugs, which “in large studies have a success rate of 60 percent at best” (Desai. 90), cardioversions, which quickly jolt a patient with an electrical impulse to rest their heart rhythm, and ablations, which is when a physician uses heat or cold energy to eliminate the conductive property of tissues in a patient’s heart to block abnormal electrical signals and restore a normal heartbeat. (Source: Mayo Clinic). At BioSig, we’re committed to advancing the therapeutic options for abnormal heart rhythms by delivering precise signal information to physicians during cardiac ablation procedures. Still, we believe it’s vital for patients and caregivers to know of all treatment options available, and a hybrid approach is often a good one.

Drug Treatment vs. Other Treatments for AFib:

In this section of his book, Dr. Desai states that “for long-term maintenance of sinus rhythm, it is now well established that drug therapy is at best 60 percent effective,” whereas “ablation has a success rate as high as 85 percent to 90 percent in paroxysmal patients and can be as high as 70 percent to 80 percent in persistent AFib.” (Desai. 122)

Dr. Desai also states that “recent data demonstrates a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia in patients who have undergone atrial fibrillation ablation in an attempt to maintain sinus rhythm.” (Desai. 110).

Building a Toolbox to Overcome AFib:

We loved this section of Restart Your Heart. Being diagnosed with AFib can be scary, but we know that patients almost always have agency in their treatment approaches. In this chapter of his book, Dr. Desai lays out eight separate tools that he believes should be used in overcoming AFib; two of our favorites are “Tool #7: Social Support System” and “Tool #8: Health Care Team.” (Desai. 146).

Desai describes Tool # 7, Social Support, as ways to keep patients accountable for their health, exercise, diet, and a way to have positivity and encouragement during a stressful time. We know that stress is a trigger of AFib, so positivity and motivation are undoubtedly helpful in overcoming the disease.

To us, tool #8 is apparent; a patient’s health care team should have one priority; patient health. If you or a loved one is not happy with your health care team, find a better team! Here’s a great Find Atrial Fibrillation Services resource from stopafib.org.

Conclusion:

Our selected highlights from Restart Your Heart are only a teaser of the wealth of information you can find by picking up a copy for yourself. The book is filled with valuable infographics, powerful quotes from patients and physicians, and in-depth descriptions of the tools and techniques used for atrial fibrillation treatments. To learn more, or to order a copy, check out Dr. Desai’s website.

BioSig’s ultimate goal is to improve patient outcomes, which is why AFib awareness month is so close to our hearts. We fervently believe that PURE EP™ is a game-changer for treating AFib and more. However, we know that many others join us in the goal to help cure patients of Atrial Fibrillation, a serious but treatable disease.

All the best,

BioSig Communications

Source:

Desai, Aseem. Restart Your Heart: The Playbook for Thriving with Afib. Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2020.

Disclaimer: BioSig Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with Dr. Desai.


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