Whatever Happened to AFIB Ultrarunner?

Sunrise at the start of an ultramarathon

So, whatever happened to “that one guy?” The one with the AFIB Ultrarunner blog?

When I decided to start this blog I had, of course, scanned the internet for similar blogs, and I found AFIB Ultrarunner. This was a somewhat short-lived but excellent 2010 blog by an unnamed man who was an ultrarunner, who like me, was dealing with atrial fibrillation (AF).

Afibultrarunner” was actually the name I originally chose for this blog, but it was taken so that’s okay, I’d be simply “afibrunner.”

I’m particularly interested in contacting him for two reasons.

First of all, at the time I was starting this blog I was personally just starting to train for ultras. In fact, I went into permanent AF right at the end of a twenty mile training run while trying to train for my first 50K.  I didn’t really know how to train so I was simply running a twenty mile trail run every weekend and I truly loved those long, slow training runs; but evidently that wasn’t a good idea given what happened!

Second of all the AFIB Ultrarunner guy had had an ablation, and has an excellent description of his experience. I have never had an ablation and likely never will (I’ve been told my chances at success are poor) and wanted to find out how he did on a long term basis. At this point I’d really like to find somebody to write about the experience for this blog – but I’ve never been able to find out who he is or how to contact him.

His blog is excellent and ends, I think, on a very sad note:

My cardiac procedure was painful or uncomfortable in constantly new ways for 20 hours.  I think I took it

pretty well, but at the time I thought that that day would be amongst the worst in my life, as in up

there with losing a spouse, child or dying yourself (although this just might be my inexperience with death speaking.)  Also I tried two drugs and nothing worked. Also my condition effects my day to day life more, such as it is now harder to carry dog food from the car without an attack, and my running has suffered.

Lets hope 2011 has more adventure running, and less heart problems.

 

And that was the end. I’m curious. How’s he doing now? Still running? Still dealing with AF? Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore – he is a little secretive about his identity, although there is a photo of him during a 50 mile race but there’s no contact info. A fifty mile race while dealing with AF – not too shabby!

Hey, man, if you’re out there let me know!

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Famous Athletes with Atrial Fibrillation

Famous Athletes with Atrial Fibrillation

This quick article is presented here just so you don’t feel you are all alone with your athlete’s heart in atrial fibrillation (AF).

This article from Everyday Health, which you may have already seen, reveals nine well known athletes who had AF.

1.) Billie Jean King, the iconic tennis hero, went into AF in 2015 and had a successful ablation. “Today, King says she continues to eat well and exercise, and she’s teamed up with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to educate patients about their afib-related stroke risk.”

2.) Basketball legend Larry Bird evidently had AF symptoms while he was playing (tachycardia, lightheadedness, disorientation) but never reported it to his team physician. After he retired in 1992 he was formally diagnosed with AF, which the article states he now has “under control.” (Whatever that means)

3.) Canadian professional triathlete Karsten Madsen was diagnosed with AF in 2010 and was successfully cardioverted, and reportedly continues to compete.

4.) World Class tennis pro Mardy Fish dropped out of the 2013 French Open with a mystery illness later diagnosed as AF, and treated with ablation. I’m not sure if he continued to play, but he is currently retired from tennis.

2014, Tour de France, tappa 10 Mulhouse – La Planche des Belles Filles, Belkin 2014, Trek Factory 2014, Mollema Bauke, Zubeldia Agirre Haimar, La Planche des Belles Filles

5.) Spanish pro road cyclist Haimar Zubeldia was sidelined for three months with AF, but with rest and treatment he was able to return to competitive cycling and finished sixth overall in the Tour de France that same year. Wow!

6.) Olympic rower Nicola Coles (New Zealand) developed AF weeks before the Beijing Olympics, and was cardioverted.  Because many common AF treatment drugs are banned  for Olympic athletes her treatment options were limited and she ended up using magnesium and fish oil to control her symptoms. her symptoms did not recur and she competed in Beijing with her teammate and they finished fifth. She subsequently retired from competition.

7.) US astronaut Deke Slayton, one of the original Mercury program astronauts was diagnosed with AF; but he continued with his astronaut training program. In 1970 he had his AF under control and was reinstated to full flight status and eventually was able to pilot the first Apollo Docking Module for the Apollo Soyuz Project. 

8.) Eight time Olympic champion canoe racer Brigit Fischer was diagnosed with AF and forced to drop her plans of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics at the age of fifty:

Though she believed she was in better shape than in her last Olympic comeback, Fischer admitted that being told she had atrial fibrillation confirmed her suspicions that something was wrong. Already the most decorated Olympian in German history and only the third woman to win at least eight gold medals, Fischer decided her health was more important than another medal. 

9.) Fourteen time NBA All-Star Jerry West played with AF symptoms believing them to be panic attacks. He was eventually was diagnosed with AF, was cardioverted, but continued to have to deal with AF.

If that isn’t enough you can check out this site:

53 best Celebrities with A-Fib images on Pinterest  Although I haven’t really taken a long look at this site, and can’t attest to it’s accuracy it’s oddly comforting to think that we’re not only in the same boat as folks above, but also with people like Gene Simmons and Barry Manilow.

 

Alcohol, Athletes, and Atrial Fibrillation

Alcohol, Athletes, and Atrial Fibrillation

 

Beer drinking with my buddies at Marster Springs Campground

Does alcohol cause atrial fibrillation (AF)?

We’ve been reading for years that a glass of wine or two can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke; and it’s pretty clear if you’ve been hanging around at the finish lines of marathons, ultras, and long distance bicycling events that endurance athletes like to drink alcohol. Also, some studies have shown that endurance athletes have up to a five-fold increase risk of AF

So . . . is alcohol consumption a risk factor for endurance athletes dealing with AF?

Uhh . . . yeah.

Drinking alcohol frequently raises the likelihood of developing AF,  and more alcohol means more risk. One to three drinks (considered to be “moderate drinking”) increases the chances of AF, and “heavy drinking” (four or more drinks per day) increases the odds even more. It’s been suggested that every extra daily drink increases the risk by 8%!

Even if you aren’t a daily drinker so-called binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in a day, also increases the chances of AF. (Some call it “binge drinking,” I might call it any weekend during my college years!)

Typical weekend from my college days

So how much alcohol is safe? Once you’ve been diagnosed with AF one or two drinks per day is probably safe, but three or more may be likely to trigger an episode. Also – make sure you figure out how much alcohol is one drink – a standard glass of wine versus a large glass of wine. A bottle of American light beer is going to be less alcohol than a bottle of craft brew IPA or stout.

My personal advice is that once you are diagnosed with AF the best move would be to quit alcohol altogether. That’s what I did. But consider that this advice is coming from a guy who is in permanent AF.

A very helpful WebMD article advises that even with moderate drinking you should avoid drinking every day: 

Even if you drink moderately, experts suggest you take a few days off from drinking alcohol every week.

  • Limit yourself to one to two drinks a day.
  • Try to have 2 to 3 alcohol-free days every week.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have an episode of AFib within an hour of drinking alcohol.

 

Exactly how does alcohol increase the chances of AF?

It isn’t clear why, but it is thought that hit might be related to increasing vagal tone. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the vagal tone. Another idea is that dehydration caused by alcohol triggers AF. A lot of people with AF know that alcohol can trigger their AF. Let’s face it – alcohol is basically a toxin with some pleasant side effects.

If you already are being treated for AF alcohol can interfere with the treatment – increase blood pressure, interact with anticoagulants, etc.

What is “Holiday Heart”?

Basically it is a nickname for the way heavy drinking around the holidays, so called “binge drinking” can trigger AF. According to Medscape:

Holiday heart syndrome most commonly refers to the association between alcohol use and rhythm disturbances, particularly supraventricular tachyarrhythmias in apparently healthy people. Similar reports have indicated that recreational use of marijuana may have corresponding effects.

 

The most common rhythm disorder is atrial fibrillation, which usually converts to normal sinus rhythm within 24 hours. Holiday heart syndrome should be particularly considered as a diagnosis in patients without structural heart disease and with new-onset atrial fibrillation.  Although the syndrome can recur, its clinical course is benign, and specific antiarrhythmic therapy is usually not indicated. Interestingly, even modest alcohol intake can be identified as a trigger in some patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. 

Finally – what is meant by “Drinker’s Heart” (a.k.a “beer drinker’s heart”)?

That’s cardiomyopathy, a serious disease of the heart muscle, related to chronic heavy drinking. Don’t let it happen to you. It’s bad.

 

beerMPG

I would love to have any readers with comments post them below. I’d love to hear from  athlete’s with atrial fibrillation who have had experience with alcohol as a trigger. Thanks for reading.