April 01, 2018

Atrial fibrillation

Basic steps to stop stroke

Atrial fibrillation

Thanks to quick thinking on the part of your spouse — and expert care in the emergency department — you survived a stroke with only minor long-term ¬≠effects. You were also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) primarily affecting the upper two heart chambers (atria). It's a problem you never knew you had, but your doctors suspect it may have contributed to the stroke.

Not everyone with atrial fibrillation can feel symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath. Either way, atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots in the heart. These clots can travel to and block arteries that supply blood to the brain. This blockage can result in the most common type of stroke (ischemic stroke), in which the brain doesn't receive enough blood flow.

Having atrial fibrillation makes you five to six times more likely to have an ischemic stroke. If an older adult without atrial fibrillation had a 1 or 2 percent risk of an ischemic stroke over the next five years, that would mean the risk of a stroke rises to 5 to 12 percent if atrial fibrillation is present. In addition, atrial fibrillation is more common among older adults, affecting about 2 to 5 percent at around age 65 and about 10 to 12 percent of those in their 80s.

Electrical storm

Atrial fibrillation occurs when irregular electrical activity in the atria causes the heart's upper two chambers to beat irregularly and fast. The muscles in the atria...