Anyone Paddling With AFib?

Atrial Fibrillation/Arrhythmia-- Have you or do you have it?
Do you still paddle? Has it changed how you go about getting on the water?

If you are a Afib candidate for an ablation, I recommend it. My cardiologist tells me to go run a marathon again if I want to. So far I have avoided the urge, but not due to the electrical wiring of my heart.

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I had AFib for a couple of years, and was lucky enough to have it go away. It didn’t affect my paddling (Well, I just ignored it) much. However, I now have epilepsy, which has seriously affected my paddling.

Mine isn’t bad enough that I had to give up my drivers license because I’m mostly stable, and I can still function during a seizure 99% of the time, but I generally don’t paddle solo anymore unless it’s in fresh water, and then I stick close to the shore. And I don’t go anywhere remotely resembling whitewater. I have done 3-4 mile crossings offshore, but only with at least 3 people who I know and trust who know my situation, and only with near perfect marine forecasts. I learned to do that the hard way – I refused to let it affect my paddling at first, and got caught in a squall about 2 miles offshore with a group of people who couldn’t help me because we got spread all over by the wind and waves. Fortunately, nothing came of it until we were back onshore, where I almost immediately had a seizure.

It’s different for everyone because severity of the problem is different for everyone, but it will affect things in some form or other. Go the safe route, and make sure you have options in case of a problem.

Very interesting. I didn’t realize ablation could help this much and I also didn’t realize it could just go away.

An electro-physiologist (cardiology specialist) is the one to speak with about your case. Hope one can help you as he helped me.

I’ve been to one. Had the battery of tests. I’m interested in other people’s experience now. Kind of looking at options moving forward as there appears to be a few grey areas with the advice I’ve been given.

There are assorted causes for afib and ablation is a less successful treatment for some than for others. My wife had supraventricular tachycardia. Ablation had a high chance of fixing the problem and it did.

Been there, done that.

Possibly diagnosed with AFIB, something I recognized I’d had since 8th grade but ignored as it went away in 4-5 seconds, and wouldn’t appear for months, in an insurance policy medical exam, I was sent off to the cardio after my family medicine internist couldn’t find any sign of it in any of the dozen or so EKGs he administered over the years.

The cardio put me on a treadmill, and kept cranking it up, then elevating it. I felt like I was climbing Pike’s Peak, Denali, Everest.

Nada, nicht, rien. I checked the monitor, heart rate 140. Solid. Rock steady. And plateaued at 140… Hell, I got to 150 doing leg presses…! Granted, they were at 810 for reps, bit still, I was climbing Everest!

The doc looked at me, disgustedly says “You exercise, don’t you…” in an accusatory tone. Sorry to disappoint ya, doc…

He tells me he was hoping for at least 150-155.

Well it wasn’t happening, so he tells me to get off and get on the exam table for something like a flowmetric ultrasound.

I get off the treadmill, lie down on the table, and all of a sudden, it felt like a gonzo orang-utan had gotten loose in the percussion section of the orchestra and was going ballistic… in the middle of my chest! Wholly male bovine. excrement!!! What the HAIL wuz goin’ on???

Well, I guess the cardio was happy -he finally sure struck paydirt!

And thus began a 4-year regimen of anti-arrythmia meds, each problematic, none fully controlling it, me finding tolerance or side effects and then moving on.

Four years and multiple meds later, fininally, an ablation was recommended.

Three ablations later, I was cured.

And all during that time, save for the intro period for a new med, or for a little while ablation post-op, I paddled just as I had before the stuff hit the fan.

An electrophysiologist, in consultation with your cardio, is the guy to see if you’re a candidate to get radio waves, of microwaived, or whatever technology they use these days to zap the site of your erroneously generated random flutter signals.

Good luck!

And here’s to getting cured so you can, happily, without worry or palpitations,

Paddle on!

Frank in Miami


experienced some instances (including one hospitalization) for afib 10 + years ago. Even my normal heartbeat has some irregularity to it- which is a concern when they put me under for any surgery- but none of it affects my paddling. That’s me, now you need to go talk to your doctor.

Wow! So the ablation has been a success?
Also, I’m curious, what was the cause of your A-Fib?


The sinus node is the orginator of the rhythmic electrochemical polarization-depoloarization wave that travels the length of the atria, and then the venticles, that provides the sequential cardiac muscle contraction-relaxation cycle that compresses the chambers to pump blood.

In my case, as in many, there is tissue that gets out of synch, and in effect, becomes an additional node that sends a similar signal in only the right (left?) atrium. What follows is basically out an of whack, unsynchronized atrium muscle randomly contracting such that it is quivering and that the chamber doesn’t contribute to the pumping effect. It allows passage of the blood pumped from the venticle through, but there are areas within the quivering or FIBRILATING (hence the terms A-FIB) atrium, not pumping and not expelling the full atrial volume, allows portions of the chamber where blood can pool, sort of like calm areas away from the main channel in a wide section of a river where flow is minimal to zero.

And therein lies the danger of AFIB.

Pooled, still blood tends to clot. Normally, advantageous, as in cuts, etc. The longer the AFIB episode(s), the greater the tendency to clot, and the greater the likelihood of larger clots.

But clotting in the atrium that leads to the to the aorta, with the primary secondary arterial offshoots to the brain, can result in a clot breaking loose, going to the brain, and clogging one of the vessels there.

Which can lead to a stroke.

A-FIB itself isn’t all that big a deal, cardio-wise. You can live “OK”, not optimally, with A-Fib, per se. It’s the threat of clot-induced stroke that’s the eminent danger.

And I had, as it turns out, more than one of these ‘errant nodes’. So it took more than one ablation to track them down, and isolate them so that when they might activate and begin propagating, they were rf ‘zapped’, AND, surrounded by a ring of dead tissue that prevented the signal from continuing.

Four years on I’m good, back at the gym, walking (knee replacement contraindicates running and jumping) and, as often as I want, to


Frank in Miami


I was just diagnosed this week. I can paddle with it, but we are working on a plan to deal with it.
Right now backpacking seems a little out of reach. Here in the Sierra on the east side, it is steep with elevations in the range of 7,000-10,000 feet most of the time.

Being a boat is much less work and occurs at lower elevations.
Afib seems to be fairly common in people over 70. I am turning 70 this week.
Thanks to ScupperFrank.

Great information.
Mine was caused by years of endurance training and racing. So I’m wondering if that would create a node?

I had AFib and SVT since I was 13yo. Started witb mild episodes where the SVT would kick in and my heartbeat would reach 220 for some seconds, then usually it would set into an AFib for 10 minutes. I learned how to control it through breathing exercises and I could tell when it would happen, usually when I would suddenly stand up without breathing.

Over the years, it started to get worse. In 2016, I had a bad episode where I woke up witn SVT (sleep apnea is a trigger) and it took more than 20 min to calm down. I was getting jnto the car to to the ER when it went away. The next morning, one of of my daughters had a medical appointment and I mentioned the episode to the doctor. He took my pulse and in 10s told me ghag I was still in afib. I told my history and he sent me to the hospital. Got there and they put me to sleep to applh the defibrilator. I woke up 30 min later, everything good, then when I am about to be discharged, a new SVT. Repeat the process, stay overnight for observation and a an electrophysiologist explained the ablation process to me.

I tried the meds for a coulle of months, but I couldn’t stand them. Had the ablation on mid 2017 and everything has been good since then. My doctor said he had never seen a case like mine with so many feedback loops on the nerves and that it might come back in the future.

On the months after the ablation, sometimes I did one of the things that would trigger my SVT and stopped waiting for it to set in… never happened.

Then biggest challenge was to get diagnosed propoerly. I did many ECGs over the years and nothing. The day I went to the hospital during an episode, the docs diagnosed me in less than a minute.

Read about it. Depending on age and other factors, it is a very low risk surgery, but still a heart surgery. Do check the kind of equipment your hospital has. Mordern equipment is able to do 3D maps and is much more precise than first generation gear, making the surgeon skill less important (sorry docs, as an engineer, I tend distrust pure human skill to get things done right reliably on a reptible way)

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Maybe this will help:

I really appreciate it. Thank you!
I had an ablation scheduled, but I haven’t had any episodes lately s the Doctor advised that I hold off on surgery.
I try to to keep my heart rate rather low when I paddle now.
This is one of the reasons I’ve picked up the canoe.

Welcome to the community and thanks for that link.

I know of a young man (34) who suffered a fatal stroke because of uncontrollable Afib. He was a personal trainer who did daily intense workouts. The discussion section of the link provides some insight.

Been struggling with AFib for several years. At first my cardiologist tried cardioversion. It worked for a about a year and a half. Then he started talking about a pacemaker and drugs. I went to find an electrophysiologist. Had to change hospitals. I had ablation which stabilized the heart rate to nomal. I still go in an out of AFib sometimes, but hike a lot and go on boat trips. There is more risk now but I don’t just go out there because I like it, I have to go. It is possible I may end up with another ablation procedure.

My husband had A Fib/A Flutter for over 12 years. When it first started he was a lot more active - he used to kayak and dive often. Over the years he had numerous cardio conversions and 5 cardio ablations (the last took over 11 hrs. with 2 cardiologists working on him) Unfortunately he just got worse, meds didn’t help much. He died 6 weeks ago, had just turned 59.

I have all types of heart meds here if anyone can use them. (and yes I know it’s illegal but it’s a shame to waste unopened bottles) VA won’t take them back.

I’m so sorry, acy.