Though you may think of AFib as primarily a heart problem, the most serious complication of AFib is actually stroke, which can occur if a blood clot formed in your heart lodges in your brain. In fact, your healthcare professional will likely make stroke prevention a priority in your treatment.
Why do strokes happen?
Strokes happen in AFib because the heartbeat is rapid and irregular and, as a result, does not move blood through the chambers of the heart normally. This causes blood to pool in the atria, the upper chambers of the heart, and form clots. If one of these clots gets pumped out of the heart, it can travel through the bloodstream to the brain, cutting off blood flow and causing a stroke.
How does AFib cause a stroke?
Watch this short video and learn how an irregular heartbeat can cause a clot to form and lead to a stroke.
People with AFib are 5 times more likely to have a stroke For more about AFib and stroke, check out this illustrated Fact Sheet.
Why stroke prevention is important
About 1 in 3 people with AFib will have a stroke in their lifetime. A stroke can be life-threatening—but AFib-related stroke is also one of the worst types of strokes you can have because it can cause irreversible harm. Examples of the devastating and life-changing effects of stroke include:
- Disability or paralysis
- Memory loss
- Emotional or behavioral changes
- Speech or language difficulty
This is why it’s essential to treat your AFib with a blood thinner and help protect yourself against the risk of stroke.
Stroke risk factors: Using the CHA2DS2-VASc score to determine your stroke risk
The CHA2DS2-VASc score looks at the number of risk factors you have to determine your stroke risk. It uses a point scale from 0 (low risk) to 9 (high risk). The more risk factors, the higher your risk of stroke. These are the stroke risk factors and their point values:
- Congestive heart failure – 1 point
- Hypertension – 1 point
- 75 years of age or older – 2 points
- Diabetes – 1 point
- Prior stroke – 2 points
- Vascular disease – 1 point
- 65–74 years of age – 1 point
- Female – 1 point
Use the stroke risk calculator to see your CHA2DS2-VASc score. Remember that even if your score is low now, it can change over time. If you have a score of 2 or higher, you may want to talk to your healthcare professional about managing your stroke risk with a blood thinner like XARELTO®.
Signs of a stroke: Remember the FAST acronym
Know when to call for help by remembering this acronym:
Time to call 911
Other stroke symptoms come on suddenly and without warning:
- Numbness, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion or difficulty understanding
- Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
- Difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance
- An unexplained, severe headache
If you experience any of these stroke symptoms, call 911 immediately if you are able, or signal to someone else to call for you. Acting quickly is essential during a stroke—the quicker you can get medical help, the lower your risk for serious disability or fatality.
AFib is one of the most prevalent reasons why people have a stroke.
Hear what Teri and Paul learned about AFib and stroke risk.