Date: January 27, 2023

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib) is an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart. The cause of afib in elderly people is a problem with the heart’s structure. Luckily, treating afib in elderly patients is possible, and there are many different types of treatments.

What Causes Afib in the Elderly?

In general, atrial fibrillation is caused by problems with the heart’s structure. These problems can be caused by:

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Heart attack

  • Congenital heart defect (that you are both with)

  • High blood pressure

  • Previous heart surgery

  • Sleep apnea

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Viral infections

Afib is not caused by age, but age and “wear and tear” on the heart can become a contributing factor. Some patients diagnosed with afib have no known heart damages or heart diseases.

Congestive heart failure and afib in the elderly can sometimes go hand in hand. Though it is often unclear which disease caused the other, they often present in the same patient, especially in the elderly. Even by itself, Afib is common in elderly patients.

Afib Symptoms in Elderly

Some patients do not even notice their symptoms of afib and find out they have it only when their doctor hears it during a routine visit. Some symptoms of afib you may experience include:

  • Racing heart

  • Feeling that your heart is fluttering or “skipping a beat”

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

Afib symptoms in elderly women vary slightly from those in men. Women are more likely to experience atypical (less common) symptoms like weakness and fatigue. They may also have longer afib episodes, and if they have a stroke associated with afib, it tends to be more severe.

Treatment of Afib in the Elderly

The treatment of atrial fibrillation in elderly patients varies based on the severity of the case along with factors like other medical conditions. The goal of the treatment is to control the heart rate and prevent blood clots which can lead to stroke. Some of the ways to treat afib in the elderly include:

  • Medications like beta blockers to slow the heart rate and blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke.

  • Cardioversion therapy, a type of therapy in which the heart rhythm is reset. This can be done using drugs or electrical shock.

  • Cardiac ablation uses extreme heat or extreme cold to create scars in the heart that block abnormal electrical signals and restore a normal heartbeat. This procedure is typically done using a catheter.

It is a bit tricky to explain how serious afib is for the elderly. While any heart condition is serious, you can also have atrial fibrillation without even realizing it. Your doctor may discover it at a routine physical. With precautions and monitoring by a doctor, you can live a long and healthy life with the condition.

Date: January 27, 2023

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

Where Do You Need Care?

please enter a zip code, or a more specifc location

Give us a call


*The Griswold service model varies depending on which state the office is in. In some states, our service is solely to refer thoroughly screened professional caregivers. In other states, we employ and supervise the caregivers. In every state, we're 100% focused on quality services and responsiveness to your needs. For each office, you'll see its service model and learn how we can best help you and your family with your home care needs. (See item 7 and item 19 of our current FDD for additional information.)