New York, USA
People who meet Mike Albanese would never guess he has suffered from atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat that can be potentially life threatening and even lead to a stroke.
That’s because the 31-year-old is typically found on stage in front of a microphone at his comedy shows. The internationally acclaimed comedian weaves in his health experiences and fears – most notably about AFib– into nearly every comedy routine.
Mike grew up with an omnipresent concern about his health. He has a strong family history of heart problems, including two uncles who passed away from heart-related conditions. But he didn’t think he would be affected at such a young age.
At just 22-years-old, he found himself in the emergency room with an irregular heartbeat, which he describes as his “heart taking a break over and over again.”
By his late 20s, Mike visited the emergency room more frequently than ever before with a rapid and irregular heart rhythm. What he didn’t know at the time was that he was experiencing AFib attacks.
“I thought I was having a heart attack,” he said. “But it lasted about 60 seconds and then stopped.” During one particularly serious emergency room visit, Mike’s doctors almost had to defibrillate his heart, which frightened him.
It wasn’t until after his 30th birthday that Mike’s doctor diagnosed him with AFib. He soon received a cryoablation procedure, which helps to restore the heart to a normal rhythm and can be used as treatment for AFib when medications and other treatments are not successful. Following the procedure, he was prescribed several medications, including an anticoagulant.
Today, Mike is no longer making frequent visits to the emergency room with AFib attacks. He is on a daily aspirin regime as a precaution, which his doctor recommended.
“I sometimes feel an occasional ‘blip’ of my heart that feels like a quick skipped beat, but it immediately goes away,” he explained. “My doctor said it is merely a muscle memory attempt and not an actual occurrence.”
He has also made several lifestyle changes since his AFib diagnosis, including losing more than 40 pounds by lowering his sodium intake and avoiding processed foods. He always makes more time to stay active.
“It’s nice to be able to go work out or run and increase my heart rate,” he said. “Unlike before, I don’t panic when my heart rate goes up. I feel more confident.”
Mike uses his career in comedy to tell others about AFib and that it can happen to anyone, no matter their age. And he’s found that talking openly about one’s health in a comedic setting can be surprisingly impactful for many people.
“Every time I do a [comedy] show and tell my story, someone will come up to me at least once and tell me they think they also have AFib and that they’re going to the doctor,” Mike said. “So many people have been diagnosed and treated as a result of my story.”
To learn more about comedian Mike Albanese, visit www.inmyownhead.com.