Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke

One of the reasons that atrial fibrillation is such an important condition to monitor and control is that this condition results in a dramatically increased risk of stroke. Because of the irregular and haphazard pumping of blood within the heart, blood may pool in certain areas which can form blood clots.

When your blood pools, your body assumes that your blood vessels have been injured and clots off the area to prevent excessive bleeding. If not for blood clotting you would continue to lose blood indefinitely after just a single cut.

Unfortunately, during atrial fibrillation the body’s own clotting machinery can mistakenly form a blood clot which can be circulated through large blood vessels all the way up to the brain. This clot prevents life-giving blood from reaching brain tissues, and can result in permanent damage, paralysis and even death. It is thus essential to deal with strokes in a very timely manner, recognizing the symptoms immediately and calling 911 as soon as possible. The sooner you call, the greater the chances you have of making a stronger recovery.

If you have atrial fibrillation, it is essential that you, your family members and friends learn how to spot a stroke. Always remember FAST:

Face Face-drooping Look for an un-even smile Arms Weakness in one arm Ask them to lift both arms Speech Listen for slurred speech Difficulty speaking Time ∙ TIME TO CALL 911

Risk of Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation

When discussing the risk of stroke, you may have heard your physician bring up something called a "CHA2DS2" or "CHA2DS2-VASc" score. This is a tool that can help estimate the chances of stroke. This system takes into account important risk factors and can help you better understand your stroke risk. These risk factors are:

  1. Congestive heart failure
  2. Hypertension
  3. Age
  4. Diabetes
  5. Stroke (prior stroke, TIA or other thromboembolism)
  6. VAscular disease (coronary artery disease, angina, etc.)
  7. Sex Category (i.e. being female)

These are some of the most important risk factors which increase an atrial fibrillation patient’s risk of stroke. If you have any, especially multiple of the above, you should be especially conscious about the risk of stroke and adhere to the stroke-reduction strategies developed by your medical team.

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150 Hespeler Rd.
Cambridge, Ontario N1R 6V6
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