Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition in which the heart doesn’t beat in a regular rhythm. That may seem like no big deal, but it can be a dangerous condition. Because the heart doesn’t pump the way it should, blood clots can form and be pumped out to other organs, causing blood flow to be blocked. Sometimes AFib is temporary, but other times it doesn’t resolve itself and should be treated by a doctor. Knowing whether your aging parent is at risk for the condition can help you to watch for signs and get them medical treatment when needed.
Causes of AFib
The irregular heartbeat of AFib occurs when the electrical signals in the upper part of the heart aren’t coordinated. There are four chambers in the heart. In the upper right chamber is the sinus node, which keeps the heart beating regularly. It is the part of the heart that initiates the heartbeat. Normally, the electrical impulse travels through the upper chambers, or atria, of the heart and then to the lower chambers, the ventricles. With AFib, the signal is chaotic, causing the heart to beat in an uncoordinated fashion.
AFib can be caused by all kinds of underlying health problems. Some possible causes are:
- High blood pressure.
- Heart attack.
- Coronary artery disease.
- Heart valve problems.
- Stimulants, like caffeine, tobacco products, and alcohol.
- Diseases of the lung.
- Having had heart surgery.
- Sleep apnea.
Sometimes, though, there is no underlying problem causing AFib. In these situations, doctors call the condition lone atrial fibrillation. Fortunately, this kind of AFib usually doesn’t cause serious complications.
AFib Risk Factors
There are several risk factors that can increase your elderly parent’s risk of developing AFib. Some of them are:
- Age: Getting older itself is a risk factor for the condition.
- High Blood Pressure: Just having high blood pressure increases the risk. However, the risk is worse if the condition isn’t controlled well.
- Heart Disease: Any kind of heart disease (heart failure, heart attack, heart valve problems, etc.) raises the chances of developing AFib.
- Obesity: Carrying excess weight may lead to AFib.
- Family History: If other people in the family have the condition, your parent has a higher chance of getting it, too.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol can sometimes bring on an episode of AFib, especially binge drinking.
- Chronic Health Conditions: Many other chronic health conditions carry an increased risk of AFib, including diabetes, kidney disease, and thyroid conditions.
If your parent is at risk for developing AFib, elderly care can help to monitor them and report any symptoms to family caregivers. Elderly care providers can also assist with managing conditions that can lead to AFib. For example, elderly care providers can remind diabetic seniors to check their blood sugar and take medications. Elderly care providers can also cook healthy, balanced meals that improve overall health and help to control weight.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in Plainsboro, NJ, please call the caring staff at Care Street Home Care. You can reach our Mercer/Burlington Division at (609) 496-5666.
Dr. Shelly, as he is fondly known, has served as an Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator in Mercer County and is a Certified Dementia Instructor. Knowledgeable, compassionate, and unusually devoted, his guidance is crucial in helping families understand their options and render decisions for their loved ones’ care plan. Dr. Shelly’s extensive experience, sincere and pleasant demeanor, and professional affiliations have made him a vital asset to Care Street.