What You Should Know About Afib and Stroke

What Is the Connection Between Afib and Stroke?

Atrial fibrillation (Afib) refers to a fast, irregular beating of the left atrium of the heart. The rapid contractions of the heart are usually weaker compared to normal contractions. This results in the blood moving slowly out of the atrium. The blood pools and coagulates, which can lead to the formation of blood clots. If a clot leaves the heart and finds its way to the brain, it can cause a stroke by obstructing the flow of blood through the cerebral arteries.

Some people suffering from Afib do not show any symptoms, but others may have a fluttering sensation in their chest, chest pains, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or fainting, and fatigue. An electrocardiogram (ECG) can detect Afib, which is a device that accounts the electrical activity of the heart. Also, there are other tests to prevent contributing causes, such as heart failure, high blood pressure, and faulty heart valves. Some people do not have any identifiable cause for Afib and stroke.

What About Treatments?

A treatment that can break up the clot within a few hours after the start of a stroke can reinstate the flow of blood to the brain. To prevent Afib-related strokes, doctors usually prescribe drugs that avoid the formation of clots in the heart. Immediately after having a stroke, specialists may administer a injection temporarily. However, also starting an oral treatment for long-term protection from clots is commonplace.

is the most commonly used drug. Individuals on must be closely examined to make sure that their blood is thin to prevent clots, but not so thin that it might lead to excessive bleeding. Some foods, vitamin supplements, and medications can influence ’s performance, therefore keeping the blood thin enough can be tricky.

Afib and Stroke

Source: Thinkstock/ champja

Recently, , , and (blood thinners) have been as effective as in preventing stroke. These latest medications do not require a regular blood check. Furthermore, they are less likely to cause bleeding as they do not make the blood too thin. Whereas, some Afib patients with a lower risk of stroke may only need either aspirin or aspirin with another antiplatelet agency like clopidogrel.

Other medications for Afib include beta blockers or calcium channel blockers, which slow down the heartbeat. Moreover, anti-arrhythmic drugs or electrical cardioversion help by delivering an electrical shock to the heart to stabilize the heartbeat.

What Is the Prognosis?

Afib and stroke affect as many as 2.2 million Americans. Not only that, together, they also increase a person’s risk of having more strokes by 4 to 6 times. The risk also increases with age. Among people who are 80+, Afib is a direct cause of one out of four strokes. Treating people with or new blood thinners reduces the likelihood of stroke in Afib patients by almost one-half to two-thirds. People with Afib can have different types of strokes. For instance, they may have silent strokes (not seen physically but show up on a brain scan) which can cause dementia, so its prevention is important.

What Research Is Being Done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is a federal agency that directs and funds research for Afib and stroke prevention. The NINDS carries out basic and clinical research in its laboratories and clinics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NINDS also supports other studies by offering grants to some major research organizations across the country. Much of this research focuses on finding better ways of preventing, treating, and ultimately curing conditions such as Afib that can increase the possibility of stroke.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Clinical Trials

NINDS health-related material provides information only and does not necessarily represent endorsements by an individual or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. You can find advice on the treatment and care of Afib patients through consultations with a physician. Finally, you can also find NINDS-prepared information in the public domain.

Featured Image Source: Thinkstock/ Ocskaymark

Posted on May 18, 2023