Atrial fibrillation: A matter of the heart

PHOTO: Atrial fibrillation: A matter of the heart

MALAYSIA - Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) tend to have a more difficult time than other cardiac patients. This is because with present anticoagulation therapy, aside from restricting their diets, patient have to be monitored by a doctor frequently. Patients worry about becoming a burden to their families.

Two patients living with AF, Jamaludin Karmarudin, 58, of Seremban and Quek Swan Leng, 71, of Seri Kembangan echo these sentiments.

One day in 2003, Jamaludin was at home when he suddenly began sweating profusely. He telephoned his wife, Maimun, 58, who was at work. By the time she arrived home, Jamaludin could not move.

She rushed him to the hospital where he lay in a coma for four days.

After Jamaludin recovered, he was diagnosed with AF. With a history of other ailments, he was accustomed to taking medication and was prepared to undergo anticoagulation therapy.

His daughter, Johana Intan Suria, 21, admits that when she saw her father in a coma, she feared that he was dying. Now, she has learnt to appreciate her time with her father.

Although hospitalisation frightened him, the retired Internal Revenue Board officer is happy to be alive and now maintains a healthy lifestyle.

With a proud smile, he says that he walks 5km a day. His philosophy is simple: "It's just a tablet that I have to take twice a day. If I don't take it, I'll die."

Quek, previously in the construction industry, is also no stranger to heart disease as he has been living with it for more than 18 years.

Although he insists that nothing much has changed in his life, his daughter, Bey Leei, 37, says that with conventional anticoagulation therapy, the family ended up staying away from eating vegetables such as broccoli and parsley. In addition, Quek cannot take certain supplements or traditional herbs such as ginseng.

Their biggest worry with conventional coagulation therapy was that Quek might bleed internally. This problem seems to have been solved by taking the medication administered under the RE-LY study. Though relieved, Quek is resigned to the fact that he will be on medication for life.

Are you at risk?

YOU need not have an underlying heart problem to suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF) as the risk of developing it increases with age. Nonetheless, it's more common to find AF in patients who have some cardiac condition such as heart valve disease, hypertrophy (enlargement of the left ventricle walls), coronary artery disease, hypertension or congestive heart failure.

Conditions that do not relate to the heart which might cause AF to appear are thyroid disorders, diabetes, excessive alcohol use, pulmonary embolism, sleep apnea and pneumonia.