Living a full life, irregular heartbeat and all

January 10, 2014 by Serena Gordon, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Lawrence Schmelz spent a lot of time in the gym keeping his body fit—up to two hours a day, every day, at age 50.

But that changed one morning six years ago when the Rockville, Md., resident woke up with the known as .

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include the feeling that your is racing or skipping a beat, shortness of breath, , dizziness, fainting and fatigue, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

"You can feel it in your chest," Schmelz said. "I knew right away something was wrong. It felt like a , and my heart was racing. That morning was the first time I ever noticed it."

Schmelz called his doctor's office, and they asked him to come in right away. After an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that measures the heart's electrical activity, showing how fast it's beating as well as its rhythm, his doctor sent him to the hospital for observation.

"My doctor said the danger with atrial fibrillation is that there's a risk of blood pooling in the heart because some blood just sits there, and that leads to a greater chance that a blood clot can form and cause a stroke," Schmelz said. He was put on while in the hospital to prevent clots from forming and now takes aspirin daily for the same purpose.

After that first episode, Schmelz's heart rhythm returned to normal in about 36 hours, though he's had other atrial fibrillation episodes since.

"It happens throughout the day in minor—a couple of seconds—episodes," he said. "The prolonged episodes don't happen often, but if they last more than a couple of hours, I have to go back into the hospital." There they put him on medications that thin his more than aspirin does.

As for exercise, Schmelz said he's cut back since his diagnosis. He now works out for about an hour a day and makes sure his heart rate doesn't go above the limit set by his doctor.

"I don't push myself as hard," he said. "It's important that I don't get exhausted from exercise." And, he said, he's now 56 so some of the decline in activity may be from aging, too.

But overall, Schmelz said he considers himself pretty lucky because atrial fibrillation hasn't changed his life significantly. He may exercise less now, but he said he's read stories about people who have a much harder time than he does.

"It interferes with my life once a year or so, so it's pretty unintrusive," he said. "For some people, it's a constant way of life."

Explore further: Higher risk of stroke from common heart disease

More information: Atrial fibrillation doesn't have to mean an end to exercise. To learn more, read this HealthDay story.

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2 comments

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wealthychef
5 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2014
What an odd story for this website. The story of one man with AF. No real information here or news.
StillWind
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
Not sure why anyone would spend 2 hours a day, every day in the gym, except that this was his social scene and he just liked hanging out.
Also not sure why AF would mean that one has to limit real physical exertion, except that the typical medical response to to make a "patient" out of everyone who walks through the door.
I'm over 50, do real physical work, far in excess of what anyone does in the gym, and have experienced AF since my teens. I pretty much ignore it and it goes away.
Hopefully, this guy will get a life.

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