‘It’s the way you deal with it that matters’
After a climb up Mount Taranaki, passionate hiker Peter experienced an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. At A&E he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, but that won’t stop him making the most of his life.
Peter has always kept himself active, playing volleyball competitively when younger and, in more recent years, tramping to keep fit. As a member of the Taranaki Alpine Club, he has climbed to the summit of Mount Taranaki 25 times.
A couple of years ago, Peter noticed a change in his heart rhythm and was referred to a cardiologist.
“I noticed that my heart was skipping a little bit, so I had a Holter monitor (PDF) for three days and while I was wearing it I went up the mountain. The results showed that for a few seconds my heart was beating at 200 beats per minute. That was diagnosed as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and I was prescribed a beta blocker to slow my heart rate down.”
Until recently, Peter had no other complaints with his heart, but after a trip up the mountain, he began to feel concerned with the rhythm again.
Atrial fibrillation diagnosed
“I was sitting on the couch and then suddenly my heart started beating quite irregularly with some chest pressure and that was a bit of a worry. I also measured my blood pressure and it was fairly high – 165 over 112 I think. So we went to A&E and that’s where the doctor diagnosed atrial fibrillation.
“While I was in A&E, about one and a half hours after the episode started, it started settling down and it got into a normal rhythm again and I felt completely fine.”
Peter was discharged visited his local GP the next day, where he was prescribed a blood thinner to reduce the risk of stroke, and more beta blockers. Since then, he has experienced a bit of a skip from time to time, but the rhythm returns to normal quickly.
“Every now and then there’s a little flutter, but it doesn’t stay and it’s very similar to what I’ve had in the past. I think so many people have some palpitations, they last for one or two seconds and it’s fine again. So it was just quite scary that it lasted for one and a half hours.”
‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’
Peter has always maintained a healthy lifestyle with no smoking, plenty of exercise, little alcohol and a balanced diet. Now he also plans to avoid caffeine, as he believes it may have contributed to his AF episode.
However, his diagnosis hasn’t deterred him from heading back up the mountain, or from doing anything else that he wants to.
“Physically it’s ok, mentally of course it takes a little bit of adjustment but I’m a very positive person, I like to make the most of every day. I always tell people “sh*t happens!” but it’s the way you deal with it that matters.”
He recommends anyone in a similar situation to stay positive.
“As long as you haven’t been told by your doctor not to do things anymore, then just continue with your life. You need to still enjoy life, even if there are some limitations. There are still a lot of ways in which you can do enjoyable things. Even if it’s on a little bit of the low level, less physical or different food, it always needs adjustment but it’s not the end of the world. Focus on the things you can still do, not on the things you can’t do anymore. You only live once so better make the most of it and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Shared October 2018