Set Your Own Rhythm - An AFib Patient Talks About Taking Control of His Health

AFib patient Doug Willis took control of his own health by finding the right doctor and treatment for his condition.

Don’t let AFib keep you from living the life you want. Doug Willis is spreading that message on this World Heart Day—seven years after being diagnosed with the most common cardiac arrhythmia. He describes his experience and shares insightful information to help get more hearts and lives back in rhythm. 

I feel really lucky now because I was able to find the right doctor and the right treatment for my AFib. Sharing my story and some of the things I’ve learned along the way is my chance to pay it forward. 

Look for signs of AFib and don’t put off treatment 

I found out I had AFib when I was having foot surgery. I went under the anesthesia, and they woke me up 20 minutes later because I had an irregular heartbeat. I’d never heard of AFib, and when I got the official diagnosis and learned about the symptoms, it was an “aha” moment for me. I realized AFib was the reason I was getting so tired and would need to sit down after doing simple activities. I also found out that AFib increases your risk of stroke and heart failure, which was scary.1,2 So, if something feels off, don’t wait. Make sure you get checked out.
[Other AFib symptoms include heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and difficulty exercising.

See the right doctor to treat your AFib 

Do you need a plumber or an electrician? Sounds funny, but that’s how heart doctors were described to me. Cardiologists are considered ‘plumbers’ because they deal with anatomy part of the heart [vascular function]. If you have AFib, you should see a rhythm specialist or an ‘electrician’ because AFib focuses on your heart’s electrical system. 
[During AFib, the atria beat rapidly in an uncontrolled manner. It’s a condition that interrupts the normal functioning of your heart’s electrical system.1

Know all your treatment options 

Many doctors will start you off with medication, but it doesn’t work for everyone.3 I still had AFib episodes, and the medication made me so tired. I had no energy to do simple things like go for a walk or trim the bushes. I couldn’t swim or travel. It was really impacting my life, so it was important for me to learn about other options.  

You could be a good candidate for catheter ablation 

My rhythm specialist recommended catheter ablation. [Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that blocks faulty electrical signals and restores rhythm.] That was six years ago, and I haven’t had any episodes since. Ablation worked for me, and I’m back to doing all the things I love.
Taking control starts with an AFib diagnosis. Then you have to find the right doctor and the right treatment for you.  

You can learn more about AFib and find a doctor in your area by visiting  

The information is strictly for informational purposes. As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. Only a cardiologist or electrophysiologist can determine whether ablation is an appropriate course of treatment. The risk needs to be discussed which your doctor and recovery takes time. If you have concerns or questions regarding this content or its applicability to your circumstances, you should speak to your healthcare team.


  1. Hugh Calkins, Gerhard Hindricks, Ricardo Cappato, et al. 2017 HRS/EHRA/ECAS/APHRS/SOLAECE expert consensus statement on catheter ablation and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation. Europace. 2018 Jan 1;20(1):e1-e160. 
  2. Odutayo A, Wong CX, Hsiao AJ, Hopewell S, Altman DG et al. (2016) Atrial fibrillation and risks ofcardiovascular disease, renal disease, and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2016 Sep 6;354:i4482. 
  3. Calkins et al. Treatment of atrial fibrillation with antiarrhythmic drugs or radiofrequency ablation: two systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses. Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2009 Aug;2(4):349-61. 


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