If you have an erratic heartbeat (arrhythmia), the team at ECCA may recommend a pacemaker to keep your heart pumping regularly and on time. Although a pacemaker can help control a heart that sometimes beats too quickly, it’s most often used to correct bradycardia, or a heart that beats too slowly.
Besides helping you feel more like yourself again, a pacemaker allows you to get back to a more dynamic lifestyle by automatically adjusting your heartbeat to match your level of activity.
While your pacemaker is a high-precision device that’s designed to work flawlessly, you have an important role to play in supporting its vital function. Here’s how you can successfully adjust to life with a pacemaker.
Early days with your pacemaker
After your pacemaker is surgically implanted in your chest, you’ll remain in the hospital for a few days to ensure the device is working properly and programmed to meet your needs.
Many arrhythmia patients who are fitted with a pacemaker also rely on medication to control their heartbeat. If medications are part of your cardiac treatment plan, be sure to take them as prescribed — these medicines work with your pacemaker to keep your heartbeat consistent.
Everyday life with your pacemaker
Most people with pacemakers can resume their normal daily routine relatively soon after implant surgery. We provide personalized guidance on how and when you should increase your level of physical activity based on your age, overall health history, and specific arrhythmia.
You may soon find that you rarely think about your pacemaker in the course of everyday life. Still, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
Any device that uses electricity or transmits a wireless signal is surrounded by an invisible electromagnetic field that creates a certain degree of electromagnetic interference (EMI).
While your pacemaker has built-in features that protect it from normal amounts of EMI, strong EMI levels can temporarily affect how your pacemaker works.
Stay away from strong electrical fields as well as powerful magnets, and keep your cell phone or cordless home phone at least six inches away from your pacemaker. Our doctors give you a detailed EMI safety list.
Physical activity is an essential component of a heart-healthy lifestyle, but when you have a pacemaker, it’s more important than ever to listen to your body. This means being physically active without overdoing it.
Partake in any activity that you enjoy and feel up to doing each day; this can be something as simple as taking a walk, going for a daily bike ride, or swimming a few laps if you have access to a pool. Just remember, quit before you get tired — the right amount of activity should leave you feeling strong and energized, not weak and depleted.
When you’re under the care of a new doctor, nurse, dentist, or medical technician, it’s crucial to let them know you have a pacemaker — certain medical procedures and diagnostic tests use powerful electromagnetic fields that can interfere with your device and harm your well-being.
While having a pacemaker doesn’t require you to take extra precautions when you drive a car, take a train, or travel by air, it’s important to remember you have one before you go through a standard security screening at the airport.
A metal detector won’t damage or interfere with your pacemaker, but it will detect your device and keep you from going through the checkpoint in a timely fashion. Let the TSA agents know that you have a pacemaker so they can conduct a separate screening with a handheld wand.
Carry a medical device identification card in your wallet at all times. Besides helping you navigate security checkpoints faster, it’s also very helpful to any medical personnel who may have to treat you in the event of an emergency.
Keeping tabs on your pacemaker
Your pacemaker may be a sophisticated device that’s run by a long-lasting battery, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to problems. Routine pacemaker testing helps ensure your device always functions as it should.
Pacemaker testing checkups at ECCA may be scheduled every three to six months, depending on the kind of device you have and how long you’ve had it. The average battery lasts for about 15 years before it needs to be replaced.
If you have a more advanced device, you may be able to analyze its function remotely. Even if you take advantage of remote pacemaker testing, your doctor at ECCA still needs to see you in person from time to time to monitor your health.