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17 Risk Factors And Reasons That Should Have Seniors Considering Early Atrial Fibrillation Screening

Strangely enough, there are millions of Americans who are living with an irregular heart rhythm or have atrial fibrillation and are asymptomatic.

In fact, may people with an irregular heartbeat experience no symptoms and live long lives with no associated cardiac medical conditions.

However, there are some individuals who have diagnosable atrial-fibrillation which is a serious cardiac arrhythmia which can result in acute or chronic hospitalization, stroke, or even death.

Thankfully, we live in a day in age where early screening is available to detect problems early and to get patients on the right treatment path.

In this article, we will be reviewing the definition of atrial fibrillation, symptoms, risk factors, prevention measures, available screenings, and the benefits of participating in atrial fibrillation screening.

What is Atrial Fibrillation (a-fib)?

Atrial fibrillation, commonly shortened to a-fib in the medical world, is referred to as an irregular and often fast rhythm of the heart.

In some cases, a-fib is not life-threatening, and patients can live symptom-free for many years. In other cases if left untreated, a-fib can lead to blood clots in the heart or even pump clots up into the brain and cause a stroke.

A-fib episodes often come and go, but in some cases may become more persistent leading to troublesome symptoms.

What Are Some Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms and Signs To Look For In Adults and Seniors?

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms may ebb and flow over time, varying in frequency and severity. Common symptoms of a-fib include:

  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Fluttering or pounding heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Inability to workout or trouble with mobility

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms could be mistaken for other medical conditions, especially in the early stages of a-fib.

Can Atrial Fibrillation Cause a Stroke?

During a-fib, the upper chambers of the heart are beating out of sync with the lower chambers, which causes blood to pool in the atria.

When this happens, blood clots can form, which leads to heart attacks or strokes. In the event of a stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), blood clots are delivered from the heart through major arteries and up into the brain, causing oxygen deprivation.

If brain tissue loses oxygen, even for a few seconds, this can irreparably damage the brain and cause severe disability or death.

Symptoms of a stroke may include:

  • Numbness or loss of movement to the limbs or face
  • Paralysis, usually on one side of the body
  • Lost ability to speak
  • Lost ability to comprehend language
  • Visual loss or disturbances
  • Changes in emotion or personality
  • Loss of sensation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Balance and coordination issues

Strokes are incredibly devastating and can completely alter someone’s lifestyle and their ability to participate in activities of daily living. 

What Are Some of The Risk Factors For Developing Atrial Fibrillation?

There are numerous risk factors for developing a-fib, including any of the following:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Problems with a pacemaker
  • Thyroid disease
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Heart disease
  • Family history of a-fib
  • Age
  • History of heart attack
  • Respiratory disease
  • History of sleep apnea
  • History of tobacco use
  • History of illicit substance use
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Age

    What Are Some Ways To Prevent From Developing Atrial Fibrillation?

Although not all cases of a-fib can be prevented, there are ways to reduce your risk for symptoms including:

  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol use
  • Exercising regularly
  • Decreasing sodium consumption
  • Decreasing fatty food consumption
  • Limiting sugary foods and drinks
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Staying well hydrated
  • No illicit substance use
  • Attending regular physician check-ups
  • Staying updates on your family history
  • Attending a-fib screenings

What is Atrial Fibrillation Screening?

Atrial fibrillation screening is a non-invasive echocardiogram (EKG) that can detect irregular rhythms of your heart.

While lying on your back, EKG electrodes are attached to your wrists and ankles, which means you don’t have to remove any clothing for the screening.

Once your reading is complete, the results are sent over to your primary physician for review.

What Are The Benefits of Early Atrial Fibrillation Screening?

Early a-fib screening provides patients with multiple benefits including:

  • Ease of mind
  • Non-invasive, quick screening methods
  • Early detection of problematic arrhythmias
  • Accurate diagnosis and treatment options


In some cases, a-fib is not life-threatening albeit the symptoms can be disruptive and alarming.

However, early detection of a-fib can indicate any potential problems so that your physician can get you on the right treatment path before other serious issues occur.

What Happens If My Screening Comes Back Positive For Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms?

Once your EKG readings are collected, your results will be sent to your primary physician.

You may be called in for a follow-up appointment to review your results with your doctor.

If your results review positive symptoms for a-fib, you may be either provided with more assessments or issues an official diagnosis.

What Are Some Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Options?

Once you’ve been diagnosed with a-fib, the physician can move forward with your available treatment options. Treatments may include:

  • Recommendations for lifestyle changes
  • Blood thinners
  • Heart rate medicines
  • Surgical procedures for serious a-fib (i.e. pacemaker, ablations, etc.)

Your a-fib treatment plan will be fitted to meet your unique needs based on your screening and any additional assessments your physician may deem necessary.


Atrial fibrillation refers to an irregular, often rapid heartbeat that can result in either no symptoms or serious medical cardiac problems.

A-fib, if left untreated, can increase your risk for developing blood clots in your heart, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Strokes are a result of prolonged oxygen deprivation to the brain tissue, which can result in permanent physical and cognitive disability or even death.

Since early a-fib symptoms echo other medical conditions, it’s often hard to properly diagnose it before problems occur.

Fortunately, atrial-fibrillation screenings are available which are EKG readings that detect irregular heart rhythms in a non-invasive manner.

Your physician reviews these readings and can create a customized treatment plan to address your a-fib early and to prevent serious medical complications from altering your life.

If you are interested and have cardiac concerns, consult with your doctor about signing up for an atrial fibrillation screening today.

About Samuel

Samuel is a physical therapist with over 20 years medical experience. He has extensive knowledge in functional rehabilitation in the acute care hospital and in-home care settings. He has spent most of his career helping seniors transition from hospital or rehab care to living independently at home. In his free time he likes to travel and read autobiographies.

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