Skip to Main Content
Atrial fibrillation treatment

Avoid Complications of Afib including Stroke

By Jeff Dynek November 29, 2018 Posted in: Heart Health

Thanks in part to recent television commercials, more people have at least heard the words "atrial fibrillation" or "Afib" more often than they used to. What is this rhythm and why are so many people interested in this?

What Complications Can Afib Cause?

Atrial fibrillation is an incredibly common heart arrhythmia. Somewhere between 3 and 6 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation. Of our citizens over 65 years old, 10%  have Afib. In these people with atrial fibrillation, the top chambers of the heart (the atrium), has an "electrical storm" causing them to beat very fast, quiver, or "fibrillate." This quivering of the atrium leads to stagnant blood within the top chambers instead of pumping through them. This can cause a clot. This clot can break loose and get pumped out of the heart and into the brain causing a stroke.

How are Afib Complications Treated?

To keep people from having a stroke from atrial fibrillation, people are usually put on blood thinning medications. This is not because there blood is "too thick", but rather we want their blood to be thinner than normal so that the heart clot does not form.

People with Afib tend to have very fast and irregular heart rates. This can be uncomfortable. It can lead to shortness of breath and even to a weakening of the heart itself. In order to protect the patient from this, some blood pressure medications are given that also slow the heart some.

If a person with atrial fibrillation is feeling poorly, getting them back to normal may be helpful. This is done by a small shock to the heart causing the rhythm to reset back to normal. This is called a cardioversion. People tolerate this procedure very well and feel better afterwards.

What are the Chances of Developing Afib Complications?

Thankfully, not everyone has this heart rhythm problem, but some people are more likely to develop Afib than others. The risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation are...

  • Age over 65
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Weakened heart function
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Sleep apnea

If you have one or more of these risk factors and have noticed your heart "flopping like a fish" or if you have periods of extreme weakness and notice an irregular heart rate, contact your doctor for an EKG. Doing this may identify a problem to prevent a stroke. Remember ....

No one wants a stroke from atrial fibrillation

Jeff Dynek
Jeff Dynek

Jeff Dynek, PA-C works at CHI Health Nebraska Heart.

Related Articles

Heart Valve Disease - Is It Worse Than Cancer?

JUN 04, 2024

Many people put up with symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue, or explain away a heart murmur that’s actually a sign of something more serious.

Read More

Afib? Give Up Blood Thinners for Good

MAY 24, 2024

Blood-thinning medications are the long-standing treatment for Afib because they help prevent the formation of clots or break up existing clots which can cause a stroke. Unfortunately, these medications also increase your risk for bleeding.

Read More

This Stroke Risk Factor Hides in Your Heart

APR 26, 2024

Could you be walking around with a tiny hole in your heart and not know it? That’s the case for one in four people, due to an anatomic condition.

Read More