AFib and Stroke: What everyone should know.
The better you understand the condition, the better prepared you’ll be to manage the risk.
What is AFib?
Essentially, atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat. The heart’s upper chambers – the atria – beat too fast or in an irregular pattern – they fibrillate. When this happens, the heart’s upper and lower chambers get out of sync. This can cause blood to pool in the upper chambers, instead of pumping completely into the lower chambers.
You could think of AFib as a problem with the electrical signals in the heart. But what causes this electrical problem? There’s no single answer. It could be damage from coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure. Often the causes are unknown.
Some people with AFib will never experience symptoms. For others, they can be intense or frightening. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, and more.
AFib symptoms can be unpredictable, returning every day or only a few times a year. Over time, it’s possible they can become more frequent and last much longer.
Whether or not someone feels AFib symptoms doesn’t change the facts about their stroke risk: If preventative measures aren’t taken, people with AFib are about 5 times more likely to suffer a stroke than people without it.
AFib and Stroke
For most people, the biggest concern about AFib is this increased risk of stroke. When AFib allows small amounts of blood to pool in the atria, cells can stick together and form a clot. A part of this clot can break off and be pumped into the bloodstream, where it travels toward the brain. A clot in the brain can block arteries, deprive brain cells of oxygen and cause a stroke.
This is why stroke prevention measures are so important for AFib patients. It’s possible to effectively reduce this risk.
Prescription medicines can help reduce the risk of stroke with AFib. Anticoagulants, known as blood thinners, help prevent clots from forming and are an effective way to reduce the risk. If your doctor prescribes a medication, it’s important to stay on it and focus on living a healthy life.
"Living Well with Atrial Fibrillation and Reducing Your Risk of Stroke" is an in-depth guide for patients and caregivers. Learn more about preventing AFib-related stroke, making healthy choices, and working with your healthcare team. Request your free copy today.