Many books and podcasts thrive in reporting NDEs - Near-Death Experiences - that allegedly give us a peek into the Great Beyond. We're all human, and we're all dead curious when it comes to death.
But today, I want to reflect on my Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) diagnosis as an FDE, short for "Far-Death Experience." Because AFib doesn't kill you right away – and the same happens with many other chronic conditions like diabetes, arteriosclerosis, or obesity.
AFib is not one of those traumatic and sudden events in which the hero has just a split second to escape death and survive to tell. It’s much less impressive when comparing my experience with Romain Grosjean's when his car split in two and caught fire while hitting the guardrail at 200km/h.
I got diagnosed with Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation soon after my fortieth birthday, and all I could compute in my brain was:
- First: am I dying sooner?
- Second: is my life over?
- Third: did I do it to myself?
Indeed, it's been a grim moment for AFib made me suddenly aware of the consistency of death and its timing.
Not only did I come to the hard realization that I would eventually cease to be, but also to the possibility that life as I knew it was over. I must confess I felt it like a game over situation, and I had no more coins in my pocket.
Lucky me, my wife is a beautiful being who happens to be a professional researcher on the quest for drug-free management of endometriosis. I’m a curious engineer myself. Put two and two together, and boom!
The solution to all my troubles was 3-stepper crystal-clear process:
- Study it
- Open a blog about it
- And possibly make money on it
(by producing an App or something else on the Internet.)
It turns out that: first, I’m not the only one who came up with the idea of making money; second: I'm not the only one with AFib on this planet. And thanks Deus for that, for much medical peer-reviewed research exists on the subject. You and I can use this great material to get us out of trouble.
The sooner you start working on it, the higher your chances of success.
But before I give you the first two or three tips on what your next steps may be, let me answer the questions I had in conjunction with my diagnosis.
Am I dying sooner?
sooner than what? 🧐
"Am I dying sooner?" The answer is: "sooner than what?" - I'm on a plane as I write this piece. Am I in control of such a vehicle? Do I know I will safely land? Does my AFib bother the pilot so much that he'll get distracted and will crush us all? I guess not, but I don't know.
Although untreated AFib is associated with an increased likelihood of getting a brutal - and often fatal - stroke, therefore ending your life prematurely, "prematurely" is a relative term.
So "premature" really is an empty word.
I don't know when and how I will die, but the longer I live with AFib, the higher the chances to sign off with a stroke.
I don't appreciate that.
Is my life over?
absolutely not! 😎
"Is my life over?" Absolutely not!
Especially if you are young like I was when I got my first episodes, you likely have decades to work it out.
The keywords are "to work it out" because although you have time to live, you don’t have a single minute to waste in procrastination.
You got to act now.
Anyway, you really should ask a slightly different question:
"Is my fancy lifestyle over?"
Did I do it to myself?
most likely, yes 😔
And this brings us to my third question: "Did I do it to myself?"
Most likely, yes, you did.
Let me ask you a few questions: Do you drink sodas? Or alcoholic beverages? Do you eat pizza? What about bread? Do you enjoy a birthday cake or the occasional Nutella dip? Do you eat burgers or fish and chips? Or just regular fries?
Do you spend time on the couch binge-watching through Netflix? Does your job strand you to a chair the whole day? Do you smoke? Do you drink?
You see where I am going with this, do you?
Don't beat yourself up: who doesn't love to indulge, right? We live in a world that has pushed us towards poor lifestyle choices since the day we've born.
It's called "commercials," and they serve one purpose: to make money.
You were programmed that way over the course of many years.
Same as me.
But this hard truth doesn't only mean that AFib is a self-inflicted condition: it also means that you are in control of most of the factors that can impact your AFib for the better - or the worse.
If you smoke, get AFib, and keep on the chimney habit, then you can safely bet hard cash that your heart's electrical issues will only get worse.
Suppose instead that you never took two steps outside the door, get AFib, and promptly develop the habit of a daily stroll. In that case, you can be an optimist and keep on working on setting yourself up for a healthy lifestyle that will likely stop your condition's progression and maybe even put it into remission.
It opened my eyes to my life experience, the limitations, the expectancy, and the quality of it.
Fortunately, more and more professionals are open to considering holistic approaches to general health. Drugs can keep you alive, but only you and your choices can make you live a great life.
And surviving is very different than living.
There are a few principles that you can decide to follow so to take action and make things work for you:
- Move, regular physical activity, especially when you do it outdoor, kicks off much healthy stuff in your body
- Eat non processed food and avoid sugar
- Slow down and take the time to appreciate yourself - be mindful
- Measure a few data points that help you follow up with your success
(start by tracking your waistline)
Those principles come from the wisdom of my Italian cardiologist, integrated with some well-written books available for you to read. There is plenty of insights and details in "The AFib Cure" and some more generic and non-AFib-specific info in "Stay off my operating table."
I suggest starting from the latter as it offers an excellent introduction to cardiovascular disease.
I can't control the QUANTITY of my life, so I resolved to improve its QUALITY.
And you can do the same.