If you have atrial fibrillation, you will likely take a medicine to help prevent a
stroke. You may also take a medicine that controls
your heart rate or your heart rhythm.
Medicine to prevent a stroke
Anticoagulant medicines, also called blood thinners, are recommended for
most people with atrial fibrillation who are at average to high risk of
Anticoagulant choices include:
If you are age 55 or older and have atrial fibrillation,
you can find your risk of having a stroke in the next 5 years using this
Interactive Tool: What Is Your Risk for a Stroke if You Have Atrial Fibrillation?
For help deciding about an anticoagulant, see:
Atrial Fibrillation: Should I Take an Anticoagulant to Prevent Stroke?
- Atrial Fibrillation: Which Anticoagulant Should I Take to Prevent Stroke?
Aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines
If you are at low
risk of stroke or cannot take anticoagulants, your doctor may recommend that
aspirin. It doesn't work as well as anticoagulant
medicines in preventing clots, but it doesn't have as many side effects.
Your doctor may have you take other
antiplatelet medicines, such as clopidogrel (Plavix),
along with aspirin or instead of aspirin. When aspirin and
clopidogrel are used together, they may reduce the risk for stroke more than
aspirin alone. This combination of clopidogrel and aspirin doesn't work as well as an anticoagulant to prevent clots. Also, this combination is more likely to cause bleeding than
Medicine to control your heart rate
Rate-control medicines are used if your heart rate is too fast. The medicine slows your heart rate. Your heart rate may not need to be very low. A heart rate of 110 beats per minute may be enough to help you.1
Rate-control medicines may relieve symptoms caused by the fast heart rate. But these medicines may not relieve other symptoms caused by atrial fibrillation.
Medicine to control your heart rhythm
Rhythm-control medicines (also known as antiarrhythmics) help return the heart to its normal rhythm and keep
atrial fibrillation from returning. They may help relieve symptoms caused by an irregular heart rate.