I am
After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

Running has been an important part of Boyd's life, so imagine his shock when a heart condition he had never heard of threatened to put a stop to it.

Boyd’s heart story

In 2017, Boyd, now 64, stopped in his tracks while jogging, feeling breathless and fatigued. It was unusual because he was used to covering several kilometres at a time, but he shrugged it off and put off going to the doctor. Now he wants to raise awareness about atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal heart rhythm.

"When I was running I suddenly felt out of breath, even though I’d only gone a couple of hundred metres. I usually run for kilometres with no issues.

When your heart is racing like that, you’re out of breath and suddenly feeling really fatigued – well, it’s like nothing else that I’d experienced before, you know something isn’t right.

I put off going to the doctor for a long time. I did end up seeing my GP who sent me for an ECG and then an echocardiogram. That didn’t show any abnormalities and then my symptoms just stopped. But seven months later it came back. I could feel my heart racing and sometimes I felt dizzy. I went to accident and emergency and they diagnosed atrial fibrillation. They said “Boyd, you’re in atrial fibrillation right now.”

I was put on medication to treat the abnormal heart rhythm, but I couldn’t tolerate it. I had some anxiety and depression and thankfully I was offered a cardiac ablation. In hospital they insert a catheter into your vein to get to the part of the heart that’s causing the problem and they zap it and burn it. The ablation was done in May 2018 and has been a complete success. I feel blessed.
Atrial fibrillation affected my whole outlook on life. Exercise has always been such an important part of my life and I was robbed of being able to do that.
I think anyone of any age, if they experience symptoms that are at odds with how they usually feel, they should see their doctor. I could get an attack just sitting at the computer or doing the dishes. 

I’ve been riding my bike for a while now – I usually ride for about three and a half hours – but I wanted to get back to my first love, running. Running has never been a chore for me.

I was worried about running again, but I finally bit the bullet. I talked to my doctor about it a few times and he said sure, just start running. It was uncomfortable for four or five weeks and there has been some muscle soreness, but no breathlessness. It has been a gradual process. I’m doing about two hours now, twice a week.

I consider myself reasonably well educated, but I knew nothing about atrial fibrillation before I was diagnosed with it. I’ve done a great deal of reading since then, but I suspect there are thousands of people who don’t realise they have atrial fibrillation, or they don’t understand the condition very well.

I’ve read that the numbers of people living with atrial fibrillation is increasing in Australia. I hate to think there are people who are going through what I went through. It’s critical that the condition is diagnosed and treated early, in order to prevent serious complications like having a stroke.  

I think sometimes people ignore symptoms and put off going to the doctor because they’re worried it might be something serious – I know I did – but it’s best to get checked out.

High blood pressure is one of the biggest causes of atrial fibrillation, but most people don’t know it. Smoking and drinking are part of it. I was carrying a bit of excess weight – not a lot, about 15 extra kilos – but I don’t drink much or smoke.   

Getting older increases your risk or getting it and I think that having a family member who has atrial fibrillation increases your chance of getting it. We have an ageing population; we have an obesity epidemic and people aren’t doing enough exercise.

A lot of men are reluctant to admit something is wrong because they see it as a sign of weakness, or they’re worried that they’ll find out that something is seriously wrong. When you’re young you think you’re bullet-proof, but things catch up with you when you get older.

There are a lot of reasons why we should improve our lifestyle, this is just one more reason to do it. It can be as simple as someone saying to their partner, ‘maybe we can do some exercise together."

Boyd’s one piece of advice

If you have these symptoms, don’t mess around, go straight to the emergency department at a major hospital.


Discover more heart stories

You might also be interested in

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Alicia Philipatos was three days old when her heart condition was diagnosed...

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Thankfully for Grant Byrne, a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, some quick thinking helped him avoid a stairway to heaven. Read Grant’s heart attack story now. ...

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

David reflects on how his life changed when he had a heart attack at 35 and how he got back on track....

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

The one that took Jan’s breath away

The one that took Jan’s breath away

The one that took Jan’s breath away

Open heart surgery to treat damaged heart valves has improved Jan's overall health....

Maryanne was shocked to find she had a hidden heart problem

Maryanne was shocked to find she had a hidden heart problem

Maryanne was shocked to find she had a hidden heart problem

At first, it didn’t cross my mind it could be something serious. ...

My role as a cardiac nurse

My role as a cardiac nurse

My role as a cardiac nurse

Michelle shares her experiences working as a cardiac nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital....

Research Directory

Research Directory

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

The fundraising race where you set the pace. Run, jog or walk MyMarathon at your own pace during October....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

This cardiac services directory presents information on cardiac rehab programs offered across Australia....

Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

An education program to promote self-care for people living with atrial fibrillation (INFORM-AF)...

Absolute CVD risk calculator

Absolute CVD risk calculator

The Absolute CVD risk calculator estimates the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years....

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Find heart healthy Italian recipes....

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Check back in for the latest updates on our alumni-exclusive events ...

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

One of the most powerful ways to help support a future without heart disease is to include a gift to the Heart Foundation in your Will...

Paprika chicken with pumpkin and spinach salad

Paprika chicken with pumpkin and spinach salad

32 minutes
Serves 4

Breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos

5 minutes
Serves 1

Mighty mango smoothie

Mighty mango smoothie

Mighty mango smoothie

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Clinical resources: Coronary heart disease and mental health

Clinical resources: Coronary heart disease and mental health

The prevalence of depression is high in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD)....

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a condition where your heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be....

Templates integrated in Best Practice software

Templates integrated in Best Practice software

Popular Heart Health Check templates – CVD risk assessment and management plan – are directly accessible from within Bp Premier ...

Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce

Serves Makes 350g | (Serves 8 – about 2 tablespoons - 44g)

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

Mexican spice blend

Mexican spice blend

Mexican spice blend

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Access to Australian heart disease guidelines is now free at your fingertips...

For Professionals: Coronary artery calcium scoring

For Professionals: Coronary artery calcium scoring

The National Heart Foundation of Australia Position Statement: Coronary artery calcium scoring for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in Australia.¹...

Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) clinical resources

Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Green power smoothie

Green power smoothie

Green power smoothie

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and management

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and management

Absolute CVD risk assessment is an integrated approach that estimates the cumulative risk of multiple risk factors to predict a heart attack or stroke event in the next five years....

Blueprint for an active Australia 

Blueprint for an active Australia 

Blueprint for an active Australia 

The Blueprint for an active Australia provides evidence-based actions to help address physical inactivity....

Your heart medicines

Your heart medicines

Your heart medicines

Information about commonly prescribed heart medicines. ...

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Resources available for built environment professionals to help guide in the development of active outdoor and indoor spaces....

Italian veggie fritters with tomato salad

Italian veggie fritters with tomato salad

Italian veggie fritters with tomato salad

20 minutes
Serves Serves 4 (as a main meal)

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Get the facts on quitting and how it can help you recover. ...