An arrhythmia is a health condition which is characterized by complications arising with the heart beat or heart rate. Arrhythmias are often called palpitations because they generally interfere with the heart’s electric rhythm. In the subject of health sciences, arrhythmias are of special interest and are prevalent among the elderly. There are three types of arrhythmias known as bradycardias, tachycardias and atrial fibrillations. Atrial fibrillations which are a type of arrhythmia caused by irregular heart beat is the most common kind of arrhythmias amongst the elderly. Bradycardia is caused by a heart beat which is too slow while tachycardias are caused by very fast heartbeats. This paper will focus on exploring the nature of atrial fibrillations. The hypothesis of the paper is that atrial fibrillation is a heart condition which occurs only among the elderly. The causes and symptoms of atrial fibrillation well as treatment options will be discussed. This study was conducted using a comprehensive review of literature. Sources of this literature included books and online libraries like Proquest and EBSCOhost and reputable online sources. These are reputable sources which showcase work by peer-reviewed journals and books written by established medics. Hospitals were also visited so as to find the general data of the age groups of arrhythmia patients.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart arrhythmia characterized by an irregular heart rhythm which is often rapid (Podrid and Kowey 67). Patients usually endure a fluttering sensation in the chest. AF may occur in various patterns. It may be persistent, intermittent or permanent. Persistent AF takes place in episodes which do not revert to normal spontaneously. It requires treatment to establish normalcy. Intermittent AF develops spontaneously but reverts to normal on its own. Permanent AF causes the heart to be permanently in this state. It does not revert back to normal own its own and may not be appropriate medically to revert it (Podrid and Kowey 70).
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is not always related to a heart disease especially in young people. This is called lone AF (Warren 23). Causes of AF which are unrelated to a heart condition include:
- Overactive thyroid gland- hyperthyroidism
- Use of alcohol
- Blood clot present in lungs –pulmonary embolism
Atrial fibrillation may also be caused by another cardiac condition. In this case, it is termed secondary AF (Warren 23). Causes include:
- Heart valve condition-this may be congenital or caused by a degeneration of valves or infection
- Cardiomyopathy-heart muscle disease
- Pericarditis- inflammation of the heart sac
- Coronary heart disease
- Enlargement of heart walls (especially the left ventricle)
For those who experience AF, the episodes can be caused by various triggers. Examples include caffeine, alcohol and others. It is possible to reduce episodes of AF by avoiding any triggers if present.
Symptoms and Treatment of AF
Symptoms which indicate AF vary from one person to the next. Some people do not manifest any noticeable signs. In the case of intermittent AF, the most common manifestation is palpitations (irregular, rapid heartbeats).Some also experience a fluttering sensation (irregular) in the chest. This may be accompanied by feelings of: faintness; weakness; chest pain; short breath; and general weakness (Leibovitch 28).
Treatment of AF will include a review of how severe the symptoms are and the duration of time they have been present. This is often done by a cardiologist. Treatment will be dependent on: the type of AF; symptom severity; underlying cause; and overall death (NHLBI 5).
Discussion of Results
The research hypothesis explored whether arrhythmia is a heart condition which is associated only with the elderly or if it is associated with heart conditions among younger people. The study was reinforced by a visit to hospitals so as to find the age range of those affected by arrhythmias. The data indicated that those listed as patients of arrhythmias were only older people (100% of patients were aged 65 and above) and no younger people were recorded as patients. According to review of literature, the occurrence of atrial fibrillation manifests in old age and conditions associated with old age as a result of prolonged exposure to risk factors. Examples given are the long term effects of alcohol abuse, and heart conditions associated with old age.
The study results supported the hypothesis that arrhythmias are present only in the elderly. This was revealed by a review of literature as well as by data obtained from visits to various hospitals where 100% of patients were elderly. This implies that in health science, it is important for focus on treatment to focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle so as to reduce the occurrence of arrhythmias.
Warren Ed. Managing patients with palpitations. Practice Nurse, 34.4 (2007): 23-26. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry. (Document ID: 1338389761).
Leibovitch, Eric. “Stroke: How the latest advances in prevention and intervention can help you reduce the risk.” Modern Medicine 62.2 (1994): 28. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 Apr. 2011.
Marshall Cavendish Corporation. Diseases and Disorders. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008. Print.
Nationl Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias. July 2009. Web. 10 April 2011. Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/arr/arr_whatis.html
Podrid Phillip and Kowey Peter. Cardiac Arrhythm: Mechanisms, Diagnosis& Management. Philadelphia; Lippincott Wlliams & Wilkins, 2001. Print.