Ginny Otte

Weeknights 12am - 5:30am

Professional medical doctor holding a magnifying glass check up on a red heart ball on blur office in the hospital and bokeh background. Concept of health care.

My health app on my smartphone reminded me the other day that September is National Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Awareness Month, and it doesn’t get as much “press” as Go Red For Women, but is just as important for spreading awareness of a condition that can (and does) lead to stroke and heart attack for everyone.

While I personally have not experienced AFib, I have had heart arrhythmias beginning in young adulthood.  When I was younger they simply made me pause–“what was that?”–I’d think, as my heart did “flip-flops” in my 20-something year old chest. Back then it was far more common for a woman’s concerns about her heart to go ignored or downplayed by doctors; in fact, most studies done during my younger years and prior (which was the basis upon all learning for physicians) regarding the heart didn’t include women of childbearing years, so the hearts of younger women and the health challenges of women trying to find out why their hearts “went pitter-pat” went unexamined and unknown.

Today, that’s changed.  Far more attention is paid to the hearts of women, which is why the “Go Red for Women” campaign is so well known.  But we also need to remember heart arrhythmias and the importants of discussing them with your doctor.

Today, I am no longer in my 20s, or in my 30s.  But I am an owner of a cardiac pacemaker which monitors my heart with its on-board memory, keeps my heart at a minimum of 60 beats per minute (I also have bradycardia, among a couple of other heart conditions) and helps me confidently go about my life and not worry as much about the heart conditions that killed my father when he was 48, and killed many of his brothers, sisters, and nieces and nephews as they approached or entered their 50s.  For us all, it all started with a feeling of our heart doing “flip flops” in our chests when we were younger.

So this month and every month, if you experience any of the signs of an arrhythmia, or if your watch tells you that you experienced one, call your doctor.  It’s the single most important thing you can do to save your own life.