As an Olympic swimmer, living healthy was just what I did. I trained four hours every day and ate what I needed in order to maintain that pace. Even after I won nine gold medals and retired from the sport, I stayed active. I swam three times a week and walked at least 5K every day.
But in August of 2018, I started feeling short of breath. I felt faint walking from the garage to the kitchen. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea what was happening.
Then I was diagnosed with AFib.
Having been an Olympic athlete, it’s scary to hear your heart isn’t doing what it should be. It’s hard to hear you’ll be living with AFib for the rest of your life. However, I was relieved to finally know what was going on with my health. And, most importantly, I learned it was a manageable condition that didn’t have to drastically change the way I lived.
I worked closely with my doctor on how I could approach the diagnosis. With the support of my family and friends, we decided to manage my AFib in three key ways: medication, lifestyle, and tracking my heart activity.
Throughout the first few weeks of my diagnosis, my doctor helped identify medicine that could help minimize AFib. Alongside that, I slowly made changes to my lifestyle, primarily my diet. I learned that what I did in my daily life could impact my heart health for years to come. So I moved away from carbs and focused on low fat foods—these changes helped make my heart stronger.
Taking new medication can be scary. How did I know it was working? How could I be sure it was having the impact it should? The same goes for adjusting my diet. That’s why it was so important for me to work with my doctor to track my heart activity, which we did with AliveCor’s KardiaMobile.
KardiaMobile is a medical-grade EKG that fits in my pocket and is easy to use. It detects AFib and other arrhythmias, like bradycardia or tachycardia, in just 30 seconds.
Another important aspect of KardiaMobile in tracking my heart activity, was the real time updates it could provide my doctor. If the device identified that I was in AFib, I could immediately share the EKG with my doctor. It provided me with an incredible peace of mind.
Now, after learning to live with AFib, I have not had an episode in more than 12 months. I’m back to living a normal lifestyle. I’ve been able to learn how my heart reacts to situations and that the changes I’ve made in my life have positively impacted my health.
Hearing I had to live with AFib for the rest of my life wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned the condition doesn’t define me or my choices—it can be the same way for everyone else. We need to safeguard our health so we have another day, another week, another month to experience life.