Very Long Periods of Stress Can Cause AF - AF Association

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Very Long Periods of Stress Can Cause AF

jeanjeannie50
jeanjeannie50
86 Replies

I can certainly believe this report:

siasat.com/burnout-syndrome...

Do you think a long period of extreme stress could have been the cause of your AF?

Added at 5pm 15.1.2020

Could a long, extreme period of stress have caused our heart electrics to re-model -making AF likely?

86 Replies
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CDreamer

Funnily enough I gave a talk to a local group on stress and what it is and the different types. What we know is that stress (any type of physical, traumatic, emotional or burn out) = inflammation = disease and that will include amongst many other conditions, AF.

Do I think it ‘caused’ mine? It was a significant, contributory factor.

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jeanjeannie50

Hi CDreamer

The stress I'm talking about is the one that goes on for years, giving you constant torture and an ache in your chest (heartache). I had too much of that from different directions.

That constant tension we held in our bodies years ago is probably what set our hearts on the road to malfunction.

The types of stress you mention are interesting and what you say so true.

Jean

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CDreamer

There is a book called the The Body Keeps the Score which looks at traumatic & emotional stress but you may find this article on Cumulative Stress Theory - this is what did for me - I didn’t feel the stress, I thought I could cope so I kept pushing my body physically at the same time as believing this was a good way of discharging emotional & psychological stress of divorce, loss of work/financial/ security loss of secure home & moving location without a support system.

I think that it’s not only about the stress we endure but lack of education of healthy ways to discharge stress & build resilience & working cleverer, not harder & longer. Unfortunately many people feel they have ‘no choice’. It took me long time to learn that saying we haven’t a choice IS a choice.

We always have a choice to say no, I can’t do this or I need help. Unfortunately it is very easy to fall prey when working in a bullying & oppressive work culture & be brain washed into believing you haven’t a choice.

jamesclear.com/cumulative-s...

S x

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CDreamer
CDreamer
in reply to CDreamer

PS - I first learned the glass of water theory of cumulative stress from a friend of mine - Clinical Psychologist - Trevor Powell- who wrote the book on it back in the 80’s but as it’s a text book written prior to internet days I couldn’t find it.

I just wish this was taught in schools/colleges/universities & especially business schools.

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jeanjeannie50

A good point, coping with stress certainly needs to be taught in all schools. Especially with life today having become far more competitive in our must have, fast paced world.

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LaceyLady
LaceyLady
in reply to CDreamer

Definitely! I have various areas of long term stress, none of which I can dump and run from. Including immediate living arrangements. Catalyst was an argument with a close family member, hey presto A&E.

learning to say s*d you, and try to not participate in a topic or two that can ignite me.

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CDreamer
CDreamer
in reply to LaceyLady

It’s really hard to disengage but I think we do need to learn how to when it is toxic to ourselves.

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doodle68

Hi Jeannie :-) I read this report yesterday and it came as no surprise to me. My life has been one long period of stress beginning when I was a baby.I have also worked literally day and night until I was totally exhausted.

My first episode of P-AF came after I spent the morning digging up a tree stump, other episodes have happened when I have been very stressed or angry which of course releases adrenaline which is ok occasionall if you need to flee a wooly mammoth but we are not designed to be constantly stressed .

Dr Gupta has been equating stress with AF for a long time...

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jeanjeannie50

Hi Doodle, I think we've discussed stressful episodes and their effects on us many times. What I'm wondering now is, if it was the longer periods of constant stress (years ago) that actually caused or hearts electrics to re-model?

Thank you for the Dr Gupta talk.

Jean

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doodle68

Hi Jennie :-) I would guess the damage caused by stress is accumulative and of course some people are more susceptible than others depending on their personality type and genetic predisposition ..

Returning to Dr Gupta in other videos, if we look at what happens when we are stressed hormones are released =inflamation= damage.

So if the stress happened long ago it still happened and had the potenial to contribute to the inflammation which may be a significant factor in developing AF.

More about inflamation...

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Coco51
Coco51
in reply to doodle68

I also suspect some people's stress and inflammation attacks a different part of their body where they are more susceptible/vulnerable. Some people have amazing heart health but get stomach ulcers for example.

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jeanjeannie50

That's a good point. I wonder if it affects the area in our body where we hold tension? It does appear that a lot of people with AF also have ulcers or hiatus hernias!

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Coco51

Yes true! Double whammy for some. My hubby however has an ok heart but awful stomach problems and can't eat when he's stressed.

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CDreamer

I think stress alters the sub-strate of the lining of the heart at a cellular level which alters the electrical pathways.

I always think of electrical pathways of the heart metaphorically as a bit like a river - water will always choose the easiest route but will need to follow the river bed - if it Rocky river bed with torrents flooding through it will cause turbulence whereas a gentle flow over sand or gravel will be a gentle, babbling brook.

That’s one of the reasons high BP will always exacerbate AF & of course BP elevates with stress.

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jeanjeannie50

You always have such interesting and believable theories CDreamer. I think you are one step ahead of us all.

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CDreamer

But it only my own theory..... but the substrate is where a lot of the research is currently going. I read the work of Prof Bruce Lipton - who was one of the first people to look at & develop the theory of epigenetics - that is that one may have a genetic disposition toward certain conditions but using observations of how cells behaved in a Petri dish he noticed that cells are acutely affected by environmental factors - which go on to switch individual genes on or off.

Cells in a nurturing environment grow & thrive whereas those exposed to neutral environments stagnate & toxic environments damage DNA.

The stress hormones - Cortisol, adrenaline, Nora-adrenaline are all toxic environments.

Just me putting 2+2 together - and possibly making 5?

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Coco51
Coco51
in reply to CDreamer

Brilliant analogy!

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Vonnieruth

Hi Jennie I have had years of stress both family wise and work wise plus little sleep time due to it Over active mind that never stops thinking Always trying to help people Doing extra shifts Helping daughter when diagnosed with her illness Husband having drink problems And many more Sure doesn't help the old ticker when you got to appear the in control person At one point I reach breaking point where my body couldn't take any more of being in over drive mode So yer I think stress played a part in my PAF visiting me Feels like a punishment and it shouldn't do I know

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jeanjeannie50

I wonder if any technique could have helped reduce your stress. What is it we need to ease that burden? Someone to listen to us? I really don't know.

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wilsond

Absolutely 100% certain

. From personal experience

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jeanjeannie50

Same here!

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JaneFinn

Absolutely, jeanjeannie - that chimes with my situation: long period of extreme stress from various sources, plus some of the contributory ‘not looking after my health’ factors that stress can exacerbate...

Hindsight is a marvellous thing! I hope I can at least warn those I know and love before they get AF or other nasties! And, though belated, address my own life to reduce the negative effects too :) x

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jeanjeannie50

HI Jane

I think when we are suffering from long term stress, there are times when you just cannot escape the cause and it's impossible to switch it off. I guess that's the most damaging type of stress. As I have said to others here, I wonder if that long term stress we suffered years ago is what set our hearts on the road to re-model and malfunction?

Jean

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Tyson4ever

Yes Jean i think it was a significant contributory factor.

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jeanjeannie50

I wonder if absolutely everyone would claim to have suffered from stress at some stage in their lives, even those who don't have AF. Could it be the extreme more prolonged episodes we have to endure, that lay the foundation for our hearts to not function correctly?

Jean

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Coco51

Absolutely. I my case years of deadlines, late shifts and shortened sleep. Then immediately before my diagnosis with persistent AF, moving house, sale deals that fell through followed by the imminent arrival of guests I wasn't looking forward to entertaining. Enough said!

Now I'm off to meditate!!

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Faraday954
Faraday954
in reply to Coco51

Meditation helps so much!

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souljacs4

100% Had my first AF episode after a very stressful time

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jeanjeannie50

I wonder what, if anything, could have eased your stress at that time, or helped you cope with it.

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Lien-Ju

100% agree, despite my young age (24 years old) I've been living in a stressful environment for almost 10 years, and I had my first attack last year.

Today I'm still improving my quality of life by reducing stress and of course run away from this environment.

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jeanjeannie50

You're so very wise Lien-Ju.

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sotolol

In a word YES. It started after a stressful birth of my first grandchild then last ten years of my life has been full of stress. I was told it’s electrical. Ok but .....

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jeanjeannie50

As CDreamer has said, coping with stress needs to be taught at school. If not I can see stress being even worse for the young people of today.

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sotolol

Yes you are right. So much death in my family my grandchildren have witnessed grief at an early age and how it’s affected us all. Both have had school pastoral care.

It’s helped. Young ones today have so much more to cope with.

People need to talk about mental health. Only my opinion.

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Faraday954

Absolutely. Every one of my episodes was following a period of extreme stress/anxiety. Going on metoprolol has calmed my anxiety down considerably overall

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jeanjeannie50

I take a very small dose of Metoprolol too, it's a good drug isn't it.

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john6

Undoubtedly so in my case. Years and years of long hours followed by very little sleep certainly did not help. I often had days when I wouId think jeez "what does it take to have a heart attack" - not that I wanted one, it was the level of stress. Other times would be if or when I woke up with a jolt from just the alarm clock going off,I felt it very much in the heart/chest area - not at all pleasant.

Imo it goes back to "we are all the same" - unfortunately [inside] we are not, with half of the problem being is that we try to keep up with colleagues/friends/team mates etc! To coin a line from a Clint Eastwood film "A man has to know his limitations" - I guess I failed on that one.

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jeanjeannie50
jeanjeannie50
in reply to john6

We just know in our hearts the cause for our AF don't we! You are so right in what you say, we do think that we have to keep up with colleagues and friends. However, we realise the truth as we grow older and we didn't really have to - too late now the damage is done!

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john6
john6
in reply to jeanjeannie50

I guess it was down to not wanting to be seen to be a lessor person than the next, as you say - too late. Anyway, albeit it late, I now have the attitude (to others) who might be pushing the pace, please carry on, for what time I have left, it is at my own pace.

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TamlaMotown

Without a doubt

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jeanjeannie50

It's good to hear everyone's replies and know that others feel the same as me. I wonder if those people who didn't respond to this post feel that stress was not the cause of their AF. Would be interesting to know.

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TamlaMotown

Hi Jean. I most certainly do feel the same as you. You described it as torture which I felt too. As always it's good to know you are not alone.

Thank you for all the help you provide in such a caring way. It's really appreciated by one who is still learning the way 😊

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37Polly

One of my worse episodes began as I tried to reason with my bank on the phone! Another when I prepared for guests to arrive and dropped a paper towel onto a candle...yikes Fire! Wild afib and vtach! So yes, all kinds of adrenaline/ stress creates afib for many of us🔥🤷‍♀️.

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jeanjeannie50

Yes, it's so easy to trigger an attack now, so I can believe how yours were started. For me it happens when someone goes on and on, without hardly pausing for breath, when talking to me on the phone!

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RiderontheStorm

A B S O L U T E L Y from combination stress . Of course statistics can be pushed in any direction but I have been maintaining this reason for my AF for years.

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jeanjeannie50

I think in our hearts we know what the cause of our AF was, so I certainly believe you.

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bennie06

Without stress our lives would be empty. It is part of our make up in the Western World.

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jeanjeannie50

Hi Bennie,that's normal everyday stress your talking about and yes everyone without fail has that, .

I'm talking about a different stress that goes on for perhaps years. Say someone close to you is suffering physical abuse from their partner that get's out of hand, you worry about them daily and they are eventually severely injured or even murdered. Relationship breakups that turn nasty, etc.

I do appreciate that people who have never experienced extreme stress may find what I'm saying difficult to understand.

I just wondered whether the extreme stress I'm talking about, causes the heart electrics to re-model and we end up with AF.

Jean

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RiderontheStorm

Some people just don't get it. Prolonged personal stress that lingers and festers on, in my case over a horrible intimate relationship that I let go on too long. Like a car accident, you just can't not look - then you cannot unsee the damage, does take a physical toll upon us. Years or even months of chronic stress I believe is a causation factor to both neurosis and tangible physical ailments. In this case for me, AF.

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Lahodges10

For me stress most definitely had a helping hand. But honestly I know when mine started, I’d been to a festival and I wasn’t drinking so I drank energy drinks all day. By the time we were on our way home I was in what I now know to be AF. Ended up. Ring admitted then but it went and that was that. Endless episodes after that until four years later. I assume I’d have an underlying issue and the stress/red bull triggered it. I wonder if this has happened to anyone else with energy drinks? I can’t even drink coffee now really, and I love it!

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jeanjeannie50

Sounds like you may have poisoned yourself with those drinks! For me I believe that an overload of artificial sweeteners were the cause of my AF. So I'm a little similar to you.

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Seawalk

Absolutely, the effect of trauma and stress change the body. I feel it’s accumulative over the years. “The Body Keeps the Score” as said by Dr Van Der Kolt. I’m working on healing🙂

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jeanjeannie50

That's interesting, what do you have to do to heal yourself?

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Seawalk

At present psychotherapy, yogic breathing, meditation and tai chi. My diet has always been good, Mediterranean home cooking. Maybe little bit two much wine😀 cut that out now. I’ve lived in Italy and France. Gave up sugar and wheat in 90s. Since reading this site I have taken more magnesium and I don’t panic when I have a episode of AF. Twice in hospital I been told I’m a healthy woman. Just PAF and fibromyalgia which I manage through above and pacing myself(not always successfully). The med made me feel vey unwell.

I have suffered traumatic stress in childhood and as a teenager, real bad stress at work etc. Stress with husbands illness, since 2010 (when my AF started). When we were living in France. Stroke, fall, subdural heamatoma, MRSA. Moved back to UK in 2015. His cancer returned. He’s OK, 87 , frail yet mobile.

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Andyc934

Absolutely Jean no doubt in my mind at all, along with long hours, poor sleep and western lifestyle and diet !

Andy

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jeanjeannie50

Do you remember the days when it was possible to go to bed at night and not wake up until the next morning? I remember my mother calling me down for Sunday lunch, that would have been at 1pm. I still slept well the following night. People who can sleep easily don't know how lucky they are and I'm sure they're far more able to cope with life the following day.

Jean

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Andyc934

I do Jean, pre internet and mobile phones, I have just banished mine to the kitchen table !

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jeanjeannie50

I've just bought a new one today, sigh - I hate change! Need to read all the instructions. It has two cameras - what on earth is that all about! I need a stress free life. Thinking of escaping to the Welsh mountains, where I can just sit by my log fire and stroke the cat and dog.

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Ppiman

Good morning, Jean. I found that very interesting - thank you. I suffer with long term insomnia (of the ‘sleep duration’ type) and am also an anxious individual. The symptoms the writer of the article describes match mine very closely.

The two conditions - insomnia and stress - are very good friends with each other and my sworn enemy! I’m fairly sure now these were factors in my atrial flutter, as that occurred on occasions when I was especially exhausted from poor sleep but was pressing on regardless, as I tend to try to do.

I had been putting the flutter down to my hiatus hernia, but I always had the exhaustion possibility in the back of my mind. I read your recent comments on improving sleep with interest the but they seemed mostly to apply to sleep onset insomnia. I do use them when needed, though and the article you linked to was very useful. Thanks again for that.

I hope you’re well. The afternoons are at last getting slowly longer and spring is thankfully creeping in. Yesterday was such a lovely day up here with catkins everywhere swaying in the wind against a blue cloudless sky!

Steve

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jeanjeannie50

Hi Steve

Yes, I can see that the info I posted earlier helps more with sleep onset. That's certainly when it works better for me, but it has helped if I wake about 2am too. After around 3.30am then it's harder for me to get back to sleep and that's when I sometimes take half of a very mild sleeping pill.

From what you have told me in the past I can understand and sympathise with you having difficulty sleeping.

Yesterday was lovely here too, we've had much milder weather than usual so far! Yesterday I noticed some daffodils in my back garden that are in bud. Catkins are usually out at the same time as daffodils aren't they. I think we may well have an earlier spring than usual here in the South West. I must say that I love all the seasons though, yes even those rainy days - they seem to make me more relaxed!

Jean

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Ppiman

You mirror my own issues with sleep, Jean - and the way I cope by taking half a zolpidem around 3am if sleep evades me. Unfortunately, the tablet only gives me three hours if I'm lucky, (2-4). I have a too-active mind, I've concluded - and an overactive bladder making it all worse!

Daffodils in bud - Devon is a month ahead or more of us then, but it's been a very mild winter.

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed — and gazed — but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

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Ppiman
Ppiman
in reply to Ppiman

Sorry about the formatting of the poem. The text editor on this site is rather basic.

Steve

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jeanjeannie50

It's a great poem Steve! My favourite Wordsworth one is The Thorn. It was once read to me so perfectly and I listened enthralled.

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Ppiman

I didn't know "The Thorn" - it is wonderful. "The Daffodils" was one of my mother's two favourite poems and she often recited it to me as a child; the other was William Blake's extraordinary poem, "The Tyger". They are both very special.

Here's a poem by Welsh poet Gillian Clarke that alludes to Wordsworth's "The Daffodils". I hope you enjoy it. I find it deeply moving and still teach it when I get the chance (I've found a way to separate the stanzas, hence the asterisks):

Miracle on St David’s Day

*

“They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude”

“The Daffodils” by W. Wordsworth

*

An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed

with daffodils. The sun treads the path

among cedars and enormous oaks.

It might be a country house, guests strolling,

the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.

*

I am reading poetry to the insane.

An old woman, interrupting, offers

as many buckets of coal as I need.

A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens

entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic

*

on a good day, they tell me later.

In a cage of first March sun a woman

sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling.

In her neat clothes the woman is absent.

A big, mild man is tenderly led

*

to his chair. He has never spoken.

His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks

gently to the rhythms of the poems.

I read to their presences, absences,

to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.

*

He is suddenly standing, silently,

huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow

movement of spring water or the first bird

of the year in the breaking darkness,

the labourer’s voice recites “The Daffodils”

*

The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients

seem to listen. He is hoarse but word–perfect.

Outside the daffodils are still as wax,

a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables

unspoken, their creams and yellows still.

*

Forty years ago, in a Valleys’ school,

the class recited poetry by rote.

Since the dumbness of misery fell

he has remembered here was a music

of speech and that once he had something to say.

*

When he’s done, before the applause, we observe

the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings

and the daffodils are flame.

*

Gillian Clarke

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Camelia23

Hi Jean. . I had exactly that sleeping pattern last night. Asleep at 11 woke at 2 then awake till 345 when I tried all sorts of relaxation and breathing techniques but nodded off at 445 then slept till 630am when I usually get up. Did you get sleeping pills from gp? A friend gave me some of her Nytol but I didn't try them as one side effect was palpitations. I always feel better when weather is more spring like and you can get more vitamin D.

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jeanjeannie50

Yes, I was prescribed my Zopiclone by my GP. Who can sleep when AF calls at night and crashes around in your chest!

I take vitamin D3 daily in liquid form and since doing so (almost two years) have not had any colds. I shouldn't speak too soon, should I! Almost two years ago I had the Aussie flu that was doing the rounds and lost a stone in weight over 2 weeks. I never want that again.

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Shcldavies

I do think that it is certainly one of the factors and it can also be the trigger, but there is much more going with our hearts. Still believe there is a cure for most arrhythmia, which would come much sooner if we could just convince our talented researchers to address the root cause rather than the symptoms.

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jeanjeannie50

Yes, I'm with you re the cure theory. It will come and the more we discuss every part of what may cause AF, then the closer we will become to the cure.

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Morzine

Well I’m pretty sure mine was caused by short term stress, not long term, but it was a massive overload short term of a couple of months,

Sue

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jeanjeannie50

Yes, very high intensity stress over a shorter period sounds like a good cause for AF.

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LouBrig

A long period of emotional grief after the loss of my parents I believe caused mine! I was otherwise young fit and healthy.

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jeanjeannie50

I can understand that may well have been the cause your AF.

Losing family is just the most awful thing to go through and if possible its really important to lift yourself up from the depths of grief and understand that death is natural, no matter how early in life it comes. I've only learnt that later in life. My brother was killed in a car accident when he was 29. A few months later when I was still feeling sad I asked myself who I was feeling sorry for. The answer was 'myself' and from then on I picked up, refusing to be so self absorbed. He was gone and would not have wanted me to be sad.

My mother died a few years later from cancer and we believe it was his death that caused her cancer. She said she felt as though a part of her was missing. Being unhappy is damaging, in so many ways.

Oh to have our parents back and feel looked after again, like when we were young.

Jean

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LouBrig

Thanks for those words. I do agree and the loss cut deep for me. When my mum died I cried everyday for 6-months, up until I collapsed and was diagnosed. It certainly was a wake up call. I know they would be annoyed with me but unfortunately I couldn’t pull myself out of that grieving stage!

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Maril1

I am 100% sure that lack of sleep,tiredness , fatigue , and shift work( especially long hours) which all link to each other and cause stress in one way or another trigger my AF. I am not a stressful person ( my wife says I am so laid back I'm horizontal!) But if I don't get at least 4hrs sleep or preferably 5 or 6 . I more often than not pay for it. I have lost count of the amount of times I get AF on holiday after an early flight the day before especially if I don't get a good sleep on the first night. Always go for a later flight now, if I can ,no problems!

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jeanjeannie50

Yes, I absolutely hate the stress of early morning flights, it spoils the holiday!

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sandoval22

I went to my GP in 2016 looking for help with PTSD and still waiting to see a specialist so I certainly wouldn't argue with it.

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jeanjeannie50

You're still waiting! You haven't been forgotten have you?

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sandoval22

No. I had a letter last Easter apologising for the delay !

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Crystalbowl

I am inclined to think that my AF was stress-induced from firstly growing up in a pretty dysfunctional family, my marriage breakdown, stressful working which included two breakdowns plus a lifetime of insomnia. It must all have a cumulative effect on the body.

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jeanjeannie50

Life is so hard at times isn't it? I do wonder whether at tough times we hold tension in our hearts and that causes the curse of AF.

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Clivecsw

Hi jeanjeanie, I may be wrong but I think stress causing my afib is bang on- I developed severe chronic tinnitus over two years ago and it keeps me in a constant state of anxiety- the poor old ticker has trouble coping!

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jeanjeannie50

That must be awful for you Clive. I'm sure I've read on here recently of a way to help tinnitus. Can you remember what it was BobD ?

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BobD
BobDVolunteer
in reply to jeanjeannie50

I have had pulsatile tinitus for longer than I can remember. laying awaake at 4 am listening to me blood shooshing in my ears is not a happy time. No idea how to stop it othe than white noise. My audiologist tells me teh next generation of hearing aids will have this facility if you want to sleep with your aids in.

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Clivecsw

Hi again,thank you for your compassion! I was lucky to have seen the (NHS) specialists locally here who provided me with hearing aids that produce white noise to mask the racket, although my tinnitus has progressed beyond that - I basically deal with it day by day now, but definitely think it was/is a contributor to my afib!

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BobD
BobDVolunteer
in reply to Clivecsw

I think for most people it is the other way round. AF = tinitus.

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