Sandy Arnold, 66, never expected to end up in the hospital while on vacation in Massachusetts. But in 2010, a car accident led to a series of hospital visits and the onset of years of heart complications.
Once she returned home from Massachusetts, Sandy’s focus turned to a problem she had noticed since the accident – a pounding feeling as if her heart was going to jump out of her chest. She quickly got in to see a cardiologist at ProMedica Northwest Ohio Cardiology Consultants (PNWOCC).
Seeking help was critical. Sandy’s heart was definitely in trouble. She was immediately rushed to ProMedica Toledo Hospital. Her physician shared that she had atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) – the most common type of heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
“AFib is more common in women who are over 65, and those with high blood pressure or diabetes are at increased risk,” explains Dr. Johan Aasbo, DO, FACC, FHRS, Sandy’s cardiac electrophysiologist.
In addition, according to a recent study of the Outcomes Registry for Better Informed Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation (ORBIT AF), women experience worse symptoms from AFib than men. These symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue and chest discomfort. Women are also more likely than men to have a stroke.
“The main symptom I noticed after the accident was the heart palpitations,” says Sandy. “It was like a fluttery feeling. My resting pulse would go from 40 (beats per minute) and skyrocket to the 190s.”
Sandy also started feeling exhausted and out of breath after taking only a few steps. The shortness of breath left her worried, especially since she was careful with her health. She quit smoking 25 years ago and had maintained a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Aasbo determined that Sandy needed a cardiac ablation, a procedure that would destroy the heart tissue causing her irregular heartbeats. The procedure was set for December 2010 and was a success!
But the story doesn’t end there.
“AFib can definitely be controlled with treatment. Many patients live active, healthy lives,” offers Dr. Aasbo. “But it is a chronic heart disease that must be carefully monitored by a physician. It tends to return and get worse – even with treatment.”
To maintain her good health and manage her AFib, Sandy had a cardioversion in 2011. This procedure used a controlled electric shock to restore her abnormally fast heart rate to a normal rhythm. And, earlier this year, Dr. Aasbo performed a second cardiac ablation. Since then, Sandy has returned to her normal life – without heart complications. She attributes her heart health to her doctors and her careful attention to her medication regimen.
“Every time I returned to ProMedica Toledo Hospital, I was in the best care with Dr. Aasbo and Robert Grande, MD, another cardiologist at PNWOCC. They collaborated on my problems and always made sure I completely understood what was happening and what their solution was going to be. Those are scary moments when you’re in the hospital for your heart, especially as frequently as I have been. But, my doctors always put me at ease,” Sandy says.