If you have atrial fibrillation (AFib), your heart beats irregularly. As a result, your heart has a harder time pumping blood out and to the body. When this happens, blood can pool in the heart and form clots. If a blood clot travels through the bloodstream, it can block a blood vessel in the brain and lead to a stroke.
On average, people with AFib are 5 times more likely to suffer a stroke than those with a normal heartbeat. Strokes related to AFib are often more severe than strokes from other causes.
What does that mean for you or a loved one who has AFib?
When a stroke happens, it tends to be debilitating, often leaving someone fully dependent on others for daily tasks such as dressing, and getting in and out of bed. It might also steal your ability to talk or think clearly.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability.
The good news is that blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, can be used to lower the chance of stroke. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 AFib-related strokes can be prevented. This is why health care teams may prescribe a blood thinner for people with AFib.
For some people, a left atrial appendage closure device (also called left atrial appendage occlusion devices) can also be used to lower the risk of an AFib-related stroke. It works by closing off the pouch in the heart where blood clots can form, then make their way into the bloodstream and cause a stroke.