Atrial Fibrillation Stroke Awareness
Atrial fibrillation is a common heart irregularity that many people are unaware can lead to a stroke. The condition involves the heart’s upper chambers not contracting fully, leading to tiny pockets of impaired blood flow. When the blood flow stagnates, blood clots can form. Blood clots involving the heart can be very serious, particularly if they are dislodged and head for the brain. The result can be a heart attack or even stroke.
Atrial Fibrillation Facts
Almost 15 percent of strokes are believed to be caused by atrial fibrillation that has been untreated. It often goes untreated because many people do not understand what the condition is, let alone recognize they have it themselves. Atrial fibrillation affects almost 3 million Americans, and the most common form significantly increases the odds of having a stroke — five times greater than the overall population.
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
Since atrial fibrillation has the potential to cause a stroke, its treatment is taken very seriously. The type of treatment is dependent upon other current risk factors for the particular patient involved. Stroke risk factors include being over 75 years of age, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Having a history of stroke is probably the highest risk factor for having another stroke.
People with few risk factors for an atrial fibrillation stroke are often advised by their doctor to take aspirin or the prescription drug clopidogrel in order to thin the blood and make blood clots less likely.
Those with higher risk factors are often prescribed a blood thinner called warfarin or other medications depending upon a number of different factors.
How long does atrial fibrillation take to cause a stroke?
It is not entirely known exactly how long atrial fibrillation has to last to result in a blood clot that causes a stroke. What is known is that if someone requires an electrical shock to the heart due to atrial fibrillation, their stroke risk is higher for a period of two to four weeks after the event. It is believed the higher risk is because when the heart resumes beating normally, previously formed clots may be dislodged and lead to stroke.
Most atrial fibrillation incidents last less than 48 hours, especially at the beginning of the disease. Some incidents can lead to chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and fatigue.