Atrial Fibrillation, also known as arrhythmia, is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes rapid heart rates. Although the condition can affect people of all ages, the Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA) says that older people are most vulnerable to the disease.
In the UK alone, irregular heartbeat affects around 10 percent of people aged 65 years or older. It's essential to receive an early diagnosis for the condition, as it has been linked to stroke, heart failure and even a high risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Most of the time, there are warning signs associated with the onset of irregular heartbeat. Once these symptoms are recognised, you should visit the doctor to receive the proper care and medication. This is crucial to preventing the serious diseases that could occur if the condition were to go untreated. To ensure that they're lowering their risk of the negative side effects that come with atrial fibrillation, look for these five symptoms of irregular heartbeat.
1. Heart palpitations
The NHS says that the most obvious symptom of atrial fibrillation is heart palpitations. This is when a person suddenly feels their heart start to pound, creating a fluttering sensation in the chest. Anyone can check their pulse by pressing their fingers to their neck or wrist and seeing if their heart rates are over 100 beats per minute, which signifies an irregular heartbeat.
Feeling tired has been linked to the onset of atrial fibrillation. However, the AFA says that some people may feel a lack of energy that makes exercising more challenging, while others could experience chronic fatigue that interferes with their daily routines. No matter how severe this symptom is, you should always report it to your doctor, especially if you have a history of other heart problems.
3. Shortness of breath
Older people may experience periods of rapid breathing, one of the early symptoms of irregular heartbeat. When this occurs, it's usually due to heart palpitations interfering with breathing patterns. These episodes can be anywhere from mild to severe, but usually only last for a minute or two and may be accompanied by dizziness. Breathlessness can occur both when people exert themselves or when they're at rest, depending on the severity of the symptom.
4. Chest pain
Chest pain, or angina, is often experienced as a result of the development of atrial fibrillation, and takes place when the coronary arteries of the heart become too narrow. These pains can happen whether people are at rest or they're exerting themselves. Usually the pain is described as a tightness or an aching in the chest area. Episodes generally last no longer than 10 minutes and become shorter - lasting between 1-2 minutes - once patients take medication like glyceryl trinitrate, according to Patient, an online source for medical information and advice.
5. Low blood pressure
While high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common cause of atrial fibrillation, the inability for the heart to beat efficiently can eventually lead to low blood pressure, or hypotension. If older people are diagnosed with hypertension, this doesn't necessarily mean they're going to develop an irregular heartbeat. However, if the diagnosis is low blood pressure, this should raise a red flag. They should explain their concern to their doctor and get a screening for atrial fibrillation to ensure they're receiving treatment early on if they do have the disease.
While these are the five most frequently experienced warning signs of atrial fibrillation, insomnia and syncope, or blackout, are also common symptoms. The ability to recognise these signs of irregular heartbeat is essential to preventing the onset of the condition. Older people and, if they have them, their carers can work together to make sure they identify and address these symptoms if they do occur.
Carers at Gracewell care homes are dedicated to ensuring that their residents receive the support they require to stay healthy and happy. We provide full-time care and attention to make it easier to spot the early symptoms of atrial fibrillation.