How Does Atrial Fibrillation Increase My Stroke Risk?

Left untreated, atrial fibrillation increases the likelihood that you'll suffer a stroke.

Many people are aware of some of the major stroke risks including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and smoking. But did you know that atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of arrhythmia, also significantly increases the likelihood that you'll suffer a stroke? Here's how the two are related and how treatment can help.

How are they related?
AF causes the upper chambers of the heart, the atria, to contract rapidly and irregularly. This results in blood pooling instead of being pumped properly into the lower chamber of the heart, called the ventricles. Blood that has pooled is more likely to clot and the formation of a blood clot would increase your risk for stroke.

What are the signs?
You may experience signs of atrial fibrillation such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms, or you might not notice anything out of the ordinary at all. AF can be detected during a physical exam, EKG or other test or procedure.

What can be done?
Treatment of AF, restoring a healthy heart rate and rhythm and addressing any underlying problems, is important to protect you against heart failure and stroke. Treatment may include eating a balanced diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and other lifestyle changes. It might also include taking blood thinning medication to help prevent clots and/or taking medication or undergoing a procedure to control heart rate and rhythm.

To learn more about atrial fibrillation, stroke and what the best course of treatment is for you, talk with your doctor. If you would like help in finding someone to speak with, use our online Find a Physician service or call 1-855-665-TMCP (8627) for a referral.

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