Making the connection between Afib and stroke

Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is a significant risk factor for stroke, but not all Afib sufferers recognize that their chances of having a stroke are higher than other people’s. Afib sufferers should be vigilant about symptoms, so they can get stroke care quickly if needed, and get informed about the things they can do to cut their stroke risk.

What is Afib?
Afib occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, beat erratically or quickly. When this happens, blood begins to pool in the heart, where it can potentially form a clot.

Afib affects over two million people in the US and is most common in people over 60. It frequently doesn’t cause any symptoms, so many sufferers don’t know that they have it unless their physicians refer them for cardiac testing.

Why does Afib increase the risk of stroke?
People with Afib have an increased risk of stroke because of the clots that can form in the heart when the beats of the atria are irregular. These clots can break off and travel through the blood vessels to the brain.

In the brain, the clot can partially or completely block blood flow, causing an ischemic stroke to occur. Tissue in the part of the brain that is being cut off from the flow of blood will die, causing potentially permanent complications. About 15% of people who have strokes have Afib. People with Afib are five times more likely to have a stroke than other people.

How can I reduce the risk of stroke with Afib?
Approximately 80% of strokes associated with Afib could be prevented. To cut the risk of stroke when you suffer from Afib, try these strategies:

  • Take medications as directed by your doctor

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Exercise regularly

  • Eat a diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains

  • Limit alcohol

  • Don’t smoke

  • Manage other conditions that increase stroke risk, such as diabetes and high blood pressure

When stroke symptoms occur, seek emergency care at Regional Medical Center of San Jose . Our Comprehensive Stroke Center provides the prompt treatment necessary for better stroke outcomes. To find out more, contact our hospital in San Jose at (888) 762-8881.

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