Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

This question & answer column is for people living with chronic health challenges and their family caregivers, who want to learn to increase the odds of improving their health by learning to live with mastery & wellbeing.

I invite you to post your questions in the comments box below. When I get a certain number of related questions, I pick one that covers them all and I answer that one.

I post to this blog three times per week. Monday posts are relevant published articles. Wednesday posts are interviews—mostly video. Friday posts consist of questions about living better with chronic health challenges, and my answers to them.

Here is this week’s question:

THIS WEEK, INSTEAD OF A QUESTION: In Appendix C of the book In Your Own Hands, I provide a detailed explication of how to cultivate medical self-efficacy. I will continue to add to that and other sections of the book in this column occasionally. This is the first such entry.

What follows is an example of medical self-efficacy from my own life. A few days ago, my cardiologist called me to tell me that after looking at my most recent heart rhythm recordings, he was concerned that I may have developed paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), based on recordings of long runs of preatrial contractions. Although I was not currently in AF, he wanted me to start taking a baby aspirin each day (due to the stroke risk associated with AF). I reminded him of my mild ITP (bleeding disorder); he then recommended I first consult with my hematologist.

Most empowered patients would simply follow through with their cardiologist’s recommendations. Although I will follow through at some point and consult with my hematologist, I already am aware of the bleeding risks associated with taking a daily baby aspirin—especially when living with mild ITP.

I’m sure his reason for the recommendation for daily prophylaxis with baby aspirin is because there is no way to know from day-to-day whether I am in AF.

However, it suddenly occurred to me that there is in fact a very simple way I can know with certainty when I am in AF, and it will save me the risk of taking a daily baby aspirin.

The simplest and safest solution is buy one of the new, relatively inexpensive little digital EKG monitors—there’s even an EKG app for the iPhone and android. These new devices are simple to use without any training in physiology; they won’t give your doctor the same detailed information as a professional 12-lead model, but the results will inform your cardiologist or PCP if you are in an abnormal rhythm. It is very easy to record your rhythm and then email the recording to your cardiologist for interpretation.


Unless you are trained in physiology and know how to interpret the various dysrhythmias, only use the device to record your rhythm and then email it to your doctor for his or her interpretation.  Trying to interpret the results without professional training could have deadly results. 

This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.

What questions do you have about how to live better with chronic health challenges that are related to the relationship between states of mind and health? 

Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box. I will post a reply to your comment, but your question may not appear in this column. 

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