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A-Fib: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

By Jonathan Wells, 9:00 am on

Despite being very common, A-Fib is a very misunderstood condition and many seniors and caregivers in Douglas County are unaware of just how dangerous it can be. Here’s an overview of A-Fib in honor of National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Normally, the heart contracts and relaxes at a regular pace thanks to cells in the heart that produce electrical currents. It’s these electrical signals that can be read on an ECG recording.

In atrial fibrillation, the two upper chambers of the heart fail to beat properly. Atrial fibrillation, or A-Fib, is the most common type of heart arrhythmia, which is a problem with the rhythm or rate of the heartbeat. An arrhythmia can cause the heart to beat irregularly, too fast, or too slow.

A-Fib is a very serious condition that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s estimated that 15-20 percent of people who have a stroke have A-Fib, yet only 33 percent of A-Fib patients believe it’s a serious condition.

What Causes A-Fib?
Despite understanding what happens during A-Fib, researchers are still unsure of the precise cause, although we do know there is a genetic component because it usually runs in families. The biggest risk factor for atrial fibrillation is existing heart disease, including congestive heart failure and coronary heart disease, notes Douglas County elder care professionals.

People who have lung problems like asthma and emphysema are also at risk, as well as people with thyroid issues, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Despite this, A-Fib can occur in seniors who are otherwise healthy if they experience a great deal of fatigue or stress, exercise too hard, or have too much alcohol or caffeine. Other causes include smoking, recreational drug use, some medications, or a mineral deficiency.

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
A-Fib does not always cause symptoms. When it does, they include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Exhausting easily
  • Fainting
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Thumping in the chest
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

A-Fib Treatments
In some cases, atrial fibrillation may be corrected with an electric shock that changes the heartbeat. Certain medications, including antiarrhythmics and beta-blockers, can restore a normal heart rhythm. In cases that can’t be corrected with medication, pacemaker surgery may be necessary to regulate the heart rate.

For more information on senior health and wellness, turn to the dedicated staff at Home Care Assistance of Douglas County. Although we offer flexible part-time home care, we are widely recognized for our reliable live-in senior care Douglas County families trust. All of our care services include the use of the Balanced Care Method, designed to promote a healthy diet, regular physical activity, social stimulation, and a sense of purpose through each phase of life. To learn more, give us a call at 720-287-1685 and speak with a friendly Care Manager today.