Research says there's a direct link between atrial fibrillation (AFib) and stroke. In fact, some studies have shown that people who have AFib are about five times more likely to get a stroke than people who don't have it.
Experts say that AFib is the cause of about 1 in 7 strokes.
What Makes Stroke More Likely
Doctors analyzed people with AFib who have a stroke at some point in their lives and they found distinct trends. While simply having AFib raises your chances of getting a stroke, there are several other things that when combined with AFib can make strokes even more likely.
Age. Studies say that atrial fibrillation is the direct cause of 1 in 4 strokes in people older than 80 years old.
Gender. Women with AFib have nearly a 50% higher chance of a stroke than men.
Other things that make stroke more likely for people with AFib include if you have:
What to Watch For
You should learn to tell the difference between your usual AFib symptoms and the early warning signs of a stroke.
Call 911 if you have sudden:
- Difficulty with seeing out of one or both of your eyes
- Severe headache without knowing the cause or reason
- Numbness or weakness in either your face, arm, or leg
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
- Dizziness, walking trouble, or losing your balance or coordination
Another easy way to spot a stroke, whether in yourself or someone you’re with, is by remembering the acronym FAST, which stands for:
Face drooping. Does one side of your face droop or feel numb? Try smiling or ask the other person to smile and see if it looks lopsided.
Arm weakness. Does one of your arms feel weak or numb? Raise both of your arms and see if one of them drifts downward.
Speech difficulty. Is your speech slurred, or do you feel like you are unable to speak or hard to understand? If you’re with someone else, see if they can get them to repeat a simple sentence correctly.
Time for 911: If you or the person you’re with shows any of the above symptoms, call 911 or drive them to the nearest hospital right away.
Following the treatment plan your doctor prescribes for your AFib can lower your chances of a stroke. One of the most common ways doctors treat AFib and help you prevent strokes is to prescribe medicine to keep blood clots from forming.
Studies suggest that people with AFib who take blood thinners can cut down their risk of a stroke by 50%-66% more than those who don’t.
Other ways to lower your chances of a stroke include:
- Maintain a healthy weight and get regular physical activity.
- Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol to keep at healthy levels.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit your alcohol: For men, no more than two drinks a day and for women, one drink a day, or less.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Limit food high in trans or saturated fat, salt, and cholesterol.