As we get older, many people develop heartbeat or heart rhythm issues. There are new ways to both monitor and treat heartbeat issues at home. Being able to get good information to your doctor is important to resolve issues quickly and ensure your long term good health. One of the most common problems seen in older adults is Atrial Fibrillation, or A Fib.
What is A Fib?
Atrial Fribrillation, or A Fib, is the most common problem people develop with their heartbeat or rhythm, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The basic cause of A Fib is disorganized signals to the upper chambers of your heart that make it beat very quickly and out of sync with the rest of your heart.
While a normal heartbeat is usually between 60 – 150 beats per minute, in A fib, the atria can beat as many as 400 times per minute. The ventricles can become overwhelmed trying to keep up, and blood won’t pump normally through the body. This could cause blood to pool and cause blood clots, leading to issues as serious as stroke. If the lower chambers of the heart beat too quickly, it can also cause heart failure.
A Fib can make you feel like your heart is racing, and it can come on suddenly, even during the night. Since A Fib can be uncomfortable and lead to more serious issues, it’s important to understand it and what to do to help control it.
What Causes A Fib? How Common is it?
Paroxysmal Afib occurs intermittently and stops on its own within 7 days.
Persistent A fib lasts longer than 7 days and may require cardioversion- or electric shock from paddles by a doctor, to restore normal rhythm.
Long-standing Persistent Afib is like persistent Afib and can last more than a year.
The CDC estimates that more than 12 million Americans will have A Fib by 2030. This includes 1 in 10 people over the age of 80! It is more common in those over 50, and can be associated with high stress, high blood pressure, alcohol use, obesity, sleep apnea, and thyroid disease. It is slightly more common in men than women.
Sometimes A-fib is transient and resolves on its own in a short period of time, but often, it’s important to see your doctor or go to an emergency room to make sure you do not have secondary affects and risk stroke.
How Do You Treat A Fib?
There are lots of different treatments for A Fib, depending on any underlying medical conditions you might have, and whether or not your A Fib is responsive to medications. While you need to consult your doctor for the best choice in treatment for you, one thing we know is important- and that’s knowing when you are having an A Fib issue and what else may be happening to contribute to the problem.
Acutely, A Fib is often treated with a “Cardioversion” or a shock to the chest with defibrillating paddles, according to Johns Hopkins. This usually happens in an Emergency Room, and it can be pretty dramatic. If you have A fib the recurs, doctors might consider medication, treating underlying conditions that can cause Afib like sleep apnea, or even surgery.
Your doctor may want you to have a ECG or wear a monitor for a period of time to help diagnose any underlying issues with your heart. But if you are experiencing A Fib that comes and goes- how do you know if you are really in A Fib or not, and when should you seek treatment?
Monitoring Episodic A Fib
There are new heart rate monitors you can use at home to get a medical-grade Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) that you can share with your doctor and help determine what treatment you might need, in real-time.
Newer models of the Apple Watch, for example, have the capacity to take an ECG and potentially diagnose AFib.
Another reliable tool many people are using is called Kardia Mobile. The company has developed a simple device costing $79, where you can place your fingers on two pads, and through an app on your smart phone, record a medical-grade ECG that can help determine if you are in A-Fib. You can share the results of the test with your doctor digitally. Kardia Mobile has also developed a new credit-card-sized version which is a bit more expensive, but may be more convenient to keep with you in your wallet or purse. It can also diagnose up to 6 common arrhythmias, including A Fib, tachycardia and other issues that can help you know when to seek treatment.
Importantly, you can use health care spending account dollars for the device. Kardia Mobile also has a “membership plan” option available, where you can take unlimited EKG’s, Board-Certified Cardiologist EKG reviews, heart health summary reports, automatic EKG sharing and more. This can be helpful to monitor conditions that are chronic, and make sure you are alerted of problems before they get serious.
Heart Health Information at your Fingertips
A member of our family was experiencing episodic A Fib and had to go to the hospital twice to get shocked. While he was given medication to use if he thought he was in A Fib at home, having Kardia Mobile and an Apple Watch available to check and make sure it was A Fib helped us make good decisions about when and if we needed to go to the hospital, and let him contact his doctor with important information to help make treatment decisions.
If you know someone who is dealing with A Fib, these at home monitors may be just the thing to make sure they get the treatment they need, when they need it.
At Kendal-Crosslands, We Take Resident Health Seriously
At Kendal-Crosslands Communities, we have resident health centers that are available for walk-in appointments, health monitoring and more. Our goal is to make sure you are healthy and independent for as long as possible, and when you need care, it’s just a call or few steps away. Click below to learn more about our resident care, and why our residents know their health is our first concern!