Although Atrial fibrillation is relatively common, it’s not well understood. In honor of Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, Home Care Assistance of Jefferson County is happy to share the following information with caregivers and family members caring for senior loved ones.
Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) is a condition affecting nearly 3 million Americans characterized by an irregular heartbeat originating in the upper chambers of the heart. While often manageable, A-Fib does increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and related heart complications. The first step in successfully treating A-Fib is developing a better understanding of the condition.
Symptoms of A-Fib
Some individuals with A-Fib may have no noticeable symptoms, only being diagnosed with A-Fib during a routine physical exam. Other seniors with atrial fibrillation may only experience signs of the condition while going up stairs, bending down, lifting something, or performing some other strenuous activity. Symptoms often associated with A-Fib include:
- General weakness or increased fatigue
- Difficulty catching breath
- Abdominal pain
- Heart palpitations (an awareness of your heart beating fast)
Treatments for A-Fib
Untreated A-Fib increases the risk stroke and heart-related death, especially in individuals 65 and older. Treatment of AF starts with an exam that includes medical history and diagnostic testing (EKG, ECG). Some seniors may require an intracardiac electrophysiology study (a test determining the strength of the heart’s electrical signals) to achieve an accurate diagnosis. Doctors often recommend the following treatments for A-Fib:
Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers (to slow heart rate and relieve symptoms)
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Thyroid medication (if AF is linked to hyperthyroidism)
- Electrical cardioversion (controlled electrical shock is delivered to the heart while under sedation to re-establish a normal rhythm)
- Antiarrhythmic medications (first administered during a hospital stay to allow for careful monitoring)
- Catheter ablation (insertion of a catheter to destroy “trigger spots” in the upper chambers of the heart sometimes linked to AF)
Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, keeping cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check, controlling blood sugar (if your loved one is diabetic) and limiting alcohol consumption are some of the ways to reduce the risk of experiencing AF episodes. As with most conditions, early detection increases the odds of successful treatment or management.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging for some seniors who require transportation assistance, mobility support, or can no longer prepare complex meals on their own. If your loved one could use a helping hand, turn to Home Care Assistance. Our live-in and part-time home care in Jefferson County ensures your loved one has the help he or she needs grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, performing physical activities, and leading an overall healthy lifestyle. For more information, call us at (303) 987-5992.