Saturday, June 30, 2012

Atrial Fibrillation Triggers and Blood Donation

 A-Fib Triggers
Once in a while I discuss my latest medical condition, atrial fibrillation. Lately, things have been pretty quiet on that front. But, when you have a quiet baseline, you can start to see things stand out as problems. The suspects I have so far are all foods:
  1. Yerba Mate Tea- I was drinking this all day long every day, and when I discontinued it, my frequent episodes of a-fib stopped abruptly. This is the main culprit. It's my fault, I'm moderation-challenged.
  2. Dark Chocolate- When I had low blood sugar and indulged in some quality cacao I noticed some heart flutters. It makes sense, but it doesn't make me happy.
  3. Gluten- I don't eat grains much. However, when I wandered outside my Paleo corral I noticed immediate palpitations from sampling some pizza and eating even just a couple pieces of penne pasta. Crazy small amounts, and very noticeable.
  4. Black Tea- I'm still willing to experiment with this one. Once, when I tested out a new type of Indian tea that we picked up, I found my heart beating double time almost as soon as I had finished the mug. While it's a stimulant, that response was out of the norm. 
  5. Alcohol- I consume moderate amounts of alcohol almost everyday, but haven't noticed problems consistently. I think my experiences with alcohol may be more related to gluten because beer was often the specific trigger.
Yes, most of those items, in moderation, are supposedly healthy things that provide antioxidants and other good polyphenols...

Oddly, coffee doesn't make the list. I have two cups of coffee every morning and my sporadic episodes are never anywhere around that event. I did some reading on an A-Fib site today and discovered that coffee and caffeine have been noted as antiarrhythmic, and shown to improve arrhythmia. That's not true for everyone, but it seems to be true for me, as well as many others.

Blood Donation
I've always steered clear of blood donation because I don't particularly like the experience of having blood drawn. Does anyone? I have always felt like my 2-4 blood draws per year was enough of a "donation", although it lacked the altruism. Well, this year during the blood drive at my school I almost gave blood, but I wasn't too crazy about returning to my classroom with the possibility of feeling woozy. So, I put it off again...

I have heard that donating blood can reduce insulin resistance temporarily. I can hardly resist an experiment (yes, still lacking altruism). I don't really expect much, but I have the luxury of messing around with these things in the summer time. On Monday I'm going to donate blood and see what happens, if anything. I'll report my results, as long as I don't get turned away for a medical reason.

Do any of my T1 readers have anything to share about donating blood?  Will I get an artificially low A1C? They say males might want to do it once in a while to keep the red blood cells fresh.


  1. I have never been able to donate blood. At first, it was because I was always visiting countries that were on the "potentially diseased" list. Once I was in the clear on that count, I was turned away for being Type 1, told that they would be "taking insulin out of my system." That doesn't make any sense to me, but I haven't tried again.

  2. I have even been guilty of using diabetes as my excuse for NOT doing it, but never really checked to see if it was on the "list". I've checked around, and it sounds like I could get turned away for having a heart rhythm issue, but not necesarily. We'll see. I'll bring my own post donation snacks. :)

  3. I've never donated blood. I went once with the intention to donate and when I was nervous about lying down and asked if they could draw the blood with me sitting up, they told me I was nervous and to come back later. A couple months later I started dropping weight rapidly, and I've never been back up to the weight required to donate in the US.
    You would expect a lowered A1c because of the increase in the rate of production in new red blood cells, and the gradual increase in glycation rate by age of blood cell, but I thought I'd go looking for a study.
    The size of those needles scares me but I think I would donate blood if I met the requirements (right now it's just weight that I'm not fitting) and felt that my overall health was good enough.

    The studies I found were mostly on type 2 diabetics, for whom apparently blood loss lowers blood glucose as well as HbA1c, if they start out with high iron levels.

    This one on nondiabetics showed that A1c dropped after a blood draw equal to the amount used for donation, and that the lowest the A1c got before it climbed back up was 4 weeks after blood loss. Reticulocyte count tells you what portion of the blood cells are really really new so that that peaked says that the highest rate of new blood cells being made was 2 weeks after donation.

  4. Wow that's really interesting. I know that all the foods you listed does a number on my anxiety levels and if I continue them, they increase my blood pressure and give me a really fast heart beat. I think they are foods that should only be had in tiny amounts due to how they can easily throw a person out of homeostasis. Anyway, it's great you've pinpointed this info for yourself.

    Also, I was told I couldn't donate blood because of my type 1...and now I'm going to look into this more!