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Atrial Fibrillation in Seniors

Atrial Fibrillation in Seniors

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation(AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by a rapid and irregular beating pattern. When AF strikes, the heart begins to beat incredibly quickly, typically between 300 and 600 beats a minute. To give you an idea of just how substantial this spike in heart beat is, a normal resting heart beats at roughly 60 to 70 times per minute. AF is most common in people over the age of 50. After you have reached 50 years of age, the chances of being affected by AF doubles every subsequent decade.

What does it mean to experience Atrial Fibrillation?

Usually if you experience AF, it is an indication of a larger issue. AF is typically a symptom of another ailment such as:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism (excess of thyroid hormone)
  • Thromboembolisms (blood vessels being blocked by blood clots)

As you can see, the conditions that AF might be a symptom of are serious. That is why it is crucial to make an appointment with your doctor or a health care professional immediately after an AF attack. Getting diagnosed early can make a world of difference. For example, thromboembolisms can possibly lead to a stroke or even death if not dealt with in a timely fashion.

Conversely, AF can be caused by less serious factors like dehydration or an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes. Whatever the cause may be, it is still critical to get an official diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatments for AF varies based on the cause of it. For example, if your AF has been caused by high blood pressure, typical treatments would include medication, increased exercise, and a healthier diet.

Blood clots are often associated with AF. To prevent the formation of blood clots, patients are usually prescribed blood-thinning medications. If you are taking these types of medications designed to thin the blood, you will need to receive periodic blood tests to ensure the medication is working as it should. The reason the prevention of blood clots is so important, is that if a blood clot forms in your body and eventually reaches the brain it could result in a stroke.

Other methods of treatment include ways to control the rate and rhythm of the heart beat.

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Heart Rate Control

One way to achieve this is through medications that slow down the heart rate to normal level. Although this method does not eradicate the irregular heart beat, it does reduce the heart rate and has a calming effect.

Heart Rhythm Control

For patients that are not having success with heart rate control medications, an alternative is to take medications that control the rhythm of the heart. This is a fairly new approach, and long term effects are not yet entirely known. People undergoing this type of treatment will need to be monitored to determine if the heart has restored to a normal rhythm.

If these methods are not working, a more serious tactic may be taken such as implanting a pacemaker to restore the heart’s regular rhythm.

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