There is a strong medical link between atrial fibrillation and occurrences of stroke, and while everyone should understand his or her individual stroke risk factors, AFib patients must take extra precautions.
AFib is more than just an irregular heartbeat
Some of the most damaging myths surrounding AFib are that it’s nothing more than an irregular heartbeat and that as long as you aren’t experiencing more serious symptoms there’s nothing to be worried about.
You should always be concerned about the dangers of stroke when you have AFib, and it’s crucial to remember that even if AFib symptoms aren’t present, you still carry the increased stroke risk associated with the condition.
According to the American Heart Association, one in five people who have a stroke also suffer from AFib. If you have AFib—no matter how severe it is or how long it has been present—you are significantly more likely to suffer a stroke than the average person.
Why strokes occur
Atrial fibrillation disrupts the heart’s ability to effectively and regularly pump blood throughout the body. In cases of irregular heart rhythm, blood clots can form more easily because blood sometimes collects in certain areas of the heart. Blood clots prevent vital blood from getting to the brain, which is what ultimately causes a stroke.
In the event of a stroke, the brain is deprived of oxygen and brain cells begin to die quickly. Even so-called “mild” strokes can cause lasting damage, and severe strokes can be fatal.
AFib can be successfully managed to minimize the risk of stroke
If you are living with AFib, you are responsible for remaining vigilant about monitoring and managing your condition in order to reduce your risk of stroke. The good news is that, while it’s never possible to eliminate your stroke risk, you can significantly lower it. Research from the National Stroke Association has found that up to 80% of strokes suffered by AFib patients are preventable.
Here are some of the most important steps you can take to manage your stroke risk as an AFib patient:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Refrain from smoking
- Limit your alcohol consumption
- Take medications as directed
Take steps to protect yourself from stroke
There’s no question that stroke is the number one danger associated with AFib and other heart arrhythmias, and taking precautions to mitigate your risk of stroke should be the top priority for you and your cardiac specialist. It’s important to talk to a cardiac electrophysiologist as soon as possible and make a plan for treating your AFib and to undergo regular checkups to ensure the efficacy of the treatment.
At Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A., we help patients by providing concrete steps they can take to lower their stroke risk. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about how your AFib affects your risk of stroke and how you can protect your heart for the future.