With 500,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States, atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is considered the most common form of abnormal heart rhythm. While commonly linked to heart disease and heart-related conditions like ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of the walls of the heart chambers), A-fib is also the cause of approximately 30 percent of strokes in people 75 and older. Developing a better understanding of A-fib greatly increases the odds of early detection and successful treatment.
What Causes A-Fib?
Atrial fibrillation is characterized by abnormal electrical discharges affecting the upper chamber of the heart, often resulting in a rapid heartbeat. Erratic rhythms in the atria can reduce the flow of blood into the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). According to Centennial senior home care professionals, possible contributing factors of A-fib include:
• High blood pressure
• Changes to the autonomic nervous system following heart surgery
• Acute alcohol intoxication
In some cases, there may be no identifiable source of A-fib, which is called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, a condition more common in younger people.
What Are Common Symptoms of A-fib?
Some people have no warning signs or early indications that they may have atrial fibrillation. However, individuals who’ve recently had a stroke, have chronic high blood pressure, or have heart disease are often at an increased risk for developing the condition. Noticeable A-fib symptoms may include:
• Palpitations (a rapid, strong, or irregular heart rate)
• Sudden fatigue
• Chest pains
• Shortness of breath
How Is A-fib Treated?
A-fib treatments address the underlying cause likely contributing to the condition. For instance, blood thinners are prescribed for stroke survivors to reduce the risk of another stroke by maintaining steady blood flow. Common A-fib treatments include:
• Medications (blood thinners, beta blockers, digitalis drugs)
• Pulmonary vein isolation (abnormal electrical pathways are eliminated)
• Electrical cardioversion (electrical current is used to reestablish a regular heart rhythm)
A-fib is initially suspected during a doctor’s visit before being confirmed with an EKG. If seniors present sporadic irregularity that can’t be easily pinpointed with an EKG, they may be asked to wear a Holter monitor or some other type of patient event recorder to track heart rate patterns.
Interested in learning more about senior health and wellness? Call 303.957.3100 and speak with the dedicated staff at Home Care Assistance. Although we are recognized for our memory care services, including dementia and Alzheimer’s home care Centennial families trust, we also offer flexible hourly and live-in care for elderly. Find out how our experienced caregivers can promote a healthy, happy, and safe lifestyle for your senior loved one by scheduling an in-home consultation today!