Meet Mike - he's your typical British gentleman, opening doors for ladies, offering cups of tea on arrival and generally an all round nice guy. Only thing is - his confidence has been shaken. Badly. He retired two years ago from running a successful dental practice and was enjoying the new freedom that not having to work brings - games of golf every Wednesday, laps of the pool each morning and visiting old friends in new countries.
Until April this year Mike felt great - everything was going to plan and he had a deposit down for a month long cruise Russia and Japan booked. He didn't look in bad shape for his age (70) and his wife was busy planning their social calendar for the summer.
In late April, however, after a two day dental conference in London (just keeping in touch with old colleagues and on top of new trends), Mike returned home to his house in Surrey and was gripped with a strange sensation when he walked through the front door. At first he thought he was having a heart attack, as something was not right with his heart. Being in the medical profession he has all manor of gadgets in the house and so took his blood pressure and pulse. His blood pressure was pretty good - 130/80, nothing to get worried about. However his pulse was unreadable on the machine. His wife took it manually and found it was very difficult to count. In fact, it was going so fast and wasn't regular at all so she couldn't count it quick enough.
Mike could feel the thumping of his heart rate in his chest and knew that it was most likely he was in an irregular heart rhythm. A trip to the GP (lucky they could squeeze him in that afternoon) and an ECG showed that Mike was in Atrial Fibrillation. Often called AF, it is the most common heart arrhythmia in the UK, with up to 1 million people in the UK who are affected.
You can read more about what AF is, what the symptoms are and how it can be treated here.
Atrial fibrillation isn't usually life-threatening, but it can be uncomfortable and often requires treatment. Treatment may involve:
- medication to prevent a stroke (people with atrial fibrillation are more at risk of having a stroke)
- medication to control the heart rate or rhythm
- cardioversion – where the heart is given a controlled electric shock to restore normal rhythm
- catheter ablation – where the area inside the heart that's causing the abnormal heart rhythm is destroyed using radiofrequency energy
Mike was given blood thinners to prevents stroke, a beta blocker to reduce his heart rate and amioderone to control the rhythm. After a few days Mike felt a lot better and started to return to his normal activities. However he never felt confident enough to return to exercise.
After a few months of the AF coming back every few days, Mike decided to have the AF treated with ablation, a procedure that requires a one night hospital stay and two weeks recovery. The procedure was a success and Mike was told he was safe to return to his normal life, including exercise.
That is where I came in. After the ablation, Mike wasn't sure where to start. He had the motivation to exercise, but was missing the confidence and knowledge of how, when and for how long to exercise.
This week was a fact finding session - we did a lot of talking, goal setting and really getting to the nitty gritty of what Mike would like to achieve. He had a lot of questions about the ablation, medications and what exercise would be realistic to return to.
We now have a plan in place - I'm very much looking forward to helping Mike get up and going. He already has his homework for this week (wear a step counter every day to see how much incidental activity he is doing) and our first session will involve a little bit of cardio and a little bit of weights. Within 6 weeks Mike will feel so much more confident about exercising himself and within 12 weeks he will feel a new man.
I look forward to keeping you posted on how Mike gets on!
Read all about Week 2 HERE!
p.s this isn't a picture of Mike. Although he does have great teeth!