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Atrial fibrillation and the Risk of Stroke

Posted by Mehran Massumi, M.D. on Jun 4, 2018, 8:36:00 AM

Atrial Fibrillation, often called AFib by doctors and other people in the medical field, describes a certain kind of irregular heartbeat – more specifically, when the two upper chambers of the heart beat unpredictably and rapidly. 

It’s possible to have AFib and not realize it, but there are some symptoms you can look for. The most prevalent sign is heart palpitations or a rapid thumping inside the chest. Some people also experience shortness of breath, dizziness, anxiety, sweating, chest pain, or pressure, becoming tired more easily when exercising, or fainting. 

Atrial fibrillation is important to catch as soon as possible – this condition can cause your heart to not pump the appropriate amount of oxygen to the rest of your body. It’s also connected to other issues, such as heart failure and stroke.

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How AFib Is Connected to Stroke

According to the American Stroke Association, about 15 percent of strokes come about as the result of untreated atrial fibrillation in patients who don’t know they even have the condition, which is troubling, considering that experts estimate nearly 2.7 million Americans have AFib. Atrial Fibrillation greatly increases the risk of stroke in patients because the condition reduces the heart’s ability to move blood through the body properly. Because AFib keeps blood in the upper chambers of the heart instead of pushing it through, clots may form. These blood clots can dislodge, travel to the brain, and cause a stroke. 

Preventing AFib

Atrial fibrillation may be prevented by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a heart-healthy diet, increasing your physical activity, avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol, reducing stress, and using over-the-counter medication such as cold and cough medications with caution as they may trigger a rapid heartbeat. 

AFib Treatments to Prevent Stroke

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If you’ve been diagnosed with AFib, then chances are your doctor has prescribed blood-thinning medications, or anticoagulant, to help prevent a heart attack or stroke brought on by artery-blocking blood clots. Warfarin, also known as Coumadin or Jantoven, is the most recognizable because it’s been on the market the longest. Newer blood thinners include Pradaxa. Xarelto, and Eliquis. Be aware these could cause life-threatening bleeding, which your doctor should discuss with you. 

Massumi, Mehran

Dr. Massumi is a board-certified physician who specializes in Cardiology at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus. His clinical interests include coronary artery disease, structural heart disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, peripheral vascular disease, and advanced mechanical circulatory support.


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