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If you have atrial fibrillation, you may be wondering how Medicare coverage works. Learn more about atrial fibrillation, including risk factors, prevention, and treatment options.
What is “AFib,” or Atrial Fibrillation?
According to the American Heart Association, atrial fibrillation (or AFib) is a type of irregular heartbeat. When you’re healthy, your heart typically beats in a regular pattern, pumping blood throughout your body as it contracts and then releases. But in a person with atrial fibrillation, the heart beats very fast and chaotically and doesn’t effectively distribute blood to your body.
To put it in perspective, a normal heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute, but the heart rate in a person with atrial fibrillation can go up to 100 to 175 beats per minute, according to the Mayo Clinic. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can increase your risk for serious health issues, including blood clots, heart failure, and stroke.
Atrial fibrillation: risk factors
According to the Mayo Clinic, certain risk factors may increase your chances of getting atrial fibrillation. You may be at risk if you:
- Are older: your risk increases with age
- Have high blood pressure
- Drink alcohol: even moderate alcohol use may cause atrial fibrillation in some people
- Are overweight
- Have certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, or lung disease
- Have had heart surgery, a heart attack, or heart disease (such as coronary artery disease or congenital heart disease)
- Having a family history of atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation: lowering your risk
Lifestyle changes may lower your risk for atrial fibrillation. According to the Mayo Clinic, this may include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
- Keeping your weight in a healthy range
- Not smoking, or quitting if you do smoke
- Reducing your alcohol or caffeine intake
- Being mindful of how certain medications, such as over-the-counter cold or cough medications, might cause an episode of atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation treatment and Medicare coverage
If you’re diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, treatment may vary, depending on how severe your symptoms are. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, atrial fibrillation treatment may include:
- Blood-thinning medications and regular blood testing to prevent blood clots
- Prescription medications to slow down your heart rate and restore a normal rhythm
- Electrical cardioversion, a procedure that sends low-energy shock waves to your heart to restore a normal heart rhythm
Medicare may cover various treatments for atrial fibrillation. Medicare Part A may cover inpatient hospital and skilled nursing facility care if you’re hospitalized as a result of your atrial fibrillation. Medicare Part B generally covers outpatient care, such as doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and screenings.
If you have atrial fibrillation, your doctor might order an electrocardiogram. This is a test that monitors your heart rate and electrical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Medicare generally covers a one-time screening electrocardiogram (EKG) if your doctor orders it.
Medicare Part B also covers many preventive benefits that may help lower your risk of atrial fibrillation. These may include cardiovascular disease screenings every five years to test your cholesterol, lipid, and triglyceride levels (your doctor must order the tests). Part B may cover counseling to help you quit smoking with a qualified health-care practitioner; these counseling sessions are free if your provider accepts Medicare assignment.
Medicare usually covers cardiac rehabilitation programs for eligible beneficiaries who have had certain heart conditions and have doctor referrals. These programs may include counseling, educational information, and exercise therapy, and could help you lower your risk for atrial fibrillation.
Would you like help finding Medicare plan options that might help cover costs for atrial fibrillation treatment? Click the Get Quotes button to set up a time to discuss your needs by phone; or, request an email with plan options you might be interested in.