AFib and stroke: Understanding the connection

November 18, 2021

Heart and Vascular Primary Care
Young female patient having electrocardiogram exam

AFib is the most common irregular heartbeat

An irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia can lead to health problems such as blood clots and stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It affects more than 2.7 million people in the US. 

What’s more, 1 in 7 strokes are linked to AFib.

“AFib becomes more common with advanced age. As the population gets older, we will see more and more cases,” says Kim Liebold, ANP Nurse Practitioner in the Electrophysiology Program of Riverside Cardiology Specialists. Cardiac electrophysiology is the branch of cardiology that focuses on the rhythm and electrical system of the heart.

The good news is AFib can be managed with medication and lifestyle change to reduce your risk of stroke. 

What happens to my heart and blood with AFib?

When you have AFib, part of your heartbeat changes to a flutter. As a result, the heart doesn’t pump blood throughout the body as well. This can cause some blood pools within the heart, increasing the chance of a blood clot.  

“Whenever you have pooling blood, there is a concern for blood clots. Blood clots can travel and interrupt blood and oxygen going to the brain. This is called an ischemic stroke and can cause permanent damage,” says Liebold. 

Treatment for AFib

Taking medication and living a heart-healthy lifestyle can sometimes manage Afib and reduce the chance of a stroke.

Your cardiologist develops your AFib treatment plan based on your specific symptoms and health history.

Treatment options for AFib may include:

  • Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle
  • Clot preventing medications like blood thinners
  • Heart rate and rhythm controlling medications
  • Nonsurgical procedures
  • Surgery

Prevent stroke with treatment and lifestyle

A heart-healthy lifestyle is also important for reducing the risk of stroke and other health problems. Take care of your heart and the rest of your body with:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Not smoking

Talk to your doctor

If you have AFib or suspect you may have an irregular heartbeat, see your doctor to diagnose and manage your condition.  

To discuss your cardiovascular risk factors, talk to your primary care provider or cardiologist. To see a Riverside Health System primary care provider, call 757-534-5352 to make an appointment. To schedule an appointment with Riverside Cardiology Specialists, call the location nearest you.

Newport News - Riverside Regional Medical Center Clinic: 757-594-2074
Newport News - Port Warwick Clinic: 757-873-0360
Hampton Clinic: 757-827-7754
Williamsburg Clinic: 757-259-9540
Gloucester Clinic:804-694-5553
Eastern Shore Clinic: 757-302-2700

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