Atrial fibrillation, often called AFib for short, is a condition that causes the heart to beat in an irregular fashion. It may beat too quickly or erratically. People who suffer from AFib are at a greater risk for serious heart problems, like stroke or heart failure. The good news is that your aging relative can protect themselves from AFib by taking preventative steps that will also protect them from other kinds of heart disease.
When an episode of AFib occurs, the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, beat in an irregular pattern and not in coordination with the lower chambers, the ventricles. People with AFib may experience symptoms such as:
Heart palpitations, which might feel like the heart is racing or like a flip-flopping sensation in the chest. They can also cause chest discomfort, or the senior might be able to feel that the heart is beating irregularly.
- A feeling of weakness.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
However, some people don’t experience any symptoms at all. In those instances, AFib might only be detected when they see the doctor for something else.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend seeing a doctor if any of the symptoms of AFib occur. The doctor will perform an electrocardiogram to determine if the symptoms are caused by AFib.
If your aging relative experiences chest pain, treat it as a medical emergency and seek emergency medical care. Chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack.
Tips for Preventing AFib
When your aging relative takes steps to prevent AFib, they’ll also be preventing other kinds of heart disease. That’s because the steps for both are the same. Preventing AFib involves following a heart-healthy lifestyle. Some steps to take are:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Part of eating a heart-healthy diet is reducing salt intake, lowering saturated fats, and decreasing cholesterol.
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage stress since it can make AFib worse.
- Take non-prescription medications in moderation. Certain medicines, like cold and cough medicine, can trigger AFib because they sometimes contain stimulants.
If your older family member has AFib or is at risk for it, elder care can help them to live a healthier lifestyle to prevent further episodes. Elder care providers can cook heart-healthy meals, using plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Elder care providers can also encourage seniors who are trying to quit smoking and offer them distractions to get past urges to smoke. Elder care providers are also a great means of stress reduction because seniors often feel better knowing that they will have the help they need.