Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, or cardiac arrhythmia. This medical condition occurs when the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) beat out of sync with the lower chambers (the ventricles). AFib requires proper treatment since people living with the condition have a higher risk of stroke.
Strokes are a medical emergency that requires quick action and treatment to minimize brain damage and disability. Keep reading to learn more about strokes and how to think “FAST” if you or someone you’re with shows signs of a stroke.
A stroke is a medical emergency that is caused when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked or reduced. Compared with other cells in the body, brain cells are more sensitive to interruptions or changes in blood flow. Uninterrupted blood flow is critical for brain cell survival — the blood brings essential nutrients and oxygen.
There are three types of strokes:
The symptoms of a stroke come on suddenly. Knowing the signs of a stroke can help you take quick actions to possibly save a life — or your own life. Here are the signs and symptoms of a stroke:
Men and women have similar general stroke symptoms. However, there are some gender differences that make women less likely to think that their symptoms are a medical emergency. Studies have shown that women tend to have more vague symptoms of stroke, including generalized weakness, fatigue, and confusion or disorientation.
If you or someone you’re with experiences any of these symptoms, get immediate medical help by calling for an ambulance. Emergency medical personnel can begin life-saving treatments on the way to the hospital, so do not try to drive to the hospital yourself.
With a stroke, every single minute counts. The stroke treatments that are most effective can only be given within the first three hours after symptoms begin. Do not wait to see if the symptoms go away. Even if the symptoms disappear, it’s important that you get immediate help from a health care provider. The longer a stroke is untreated, the higher the chance for permanent brain damage and disability.
Some stroke risk factors can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications. Other stroke risk factors cannot be changed, including older age and your genetic and racial background. Talk with your health care provider if you have concerns about any of the following stroke risk factors:
AFib, a very irregular heart rhythm, causes blood to pool within the chambers of the heart. Pooled blood can form clots — masses of blood cells caused by the coagulation of blood. If a blood clot leaves the heart, it can travel to the brain or other parts of the body. There, it can block blood flow and cause an ischemic stroke.
Your health care provider may recommend the following stroke prevention treatment options:
The American Stroke Association recommends learning and sharing the acronym FAST to help save a life. Each letter represents a different step in the process:
Make sure you pay attention to the time the symptoms begin, since this information will be helpful to the first responders. Remember that early treatment can help improve quality of life after a stroke.
MyHeartDiseaseTeam is the social network for people with atrial fibrillation and their loved ones. More than 48,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with heart disease.
Do you have AFib? Have you spoken with your doctor about stroke risk? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyHeartDiseaseTeam.