How Atrial Fibrillation Affects Your Stroke Risk

Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart arrhythmia. It causes the heart to beat too quickly and irregularly because of abnormalities of the heart’s electrical system. Some people with atrial fibrillation develop troublesome symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and faintness, while others experience no symptoms at all. The treatment of atrial fibrillation doesn’t only manage its symptoms; it’s essential for managing the risk of stroke. At Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, comprehensive heart and stroke care is available for families in Las Vegas.

Understanding Your Diagnosis
The upper chambers of the heart are the atria, and the lower chambers are the ventricles. The electrical signals originate in the atria before moving on to the ventricles. These electrical impulses instruct the heart to contract and pump blood. But if you have atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals are too fast and are transmitted in an irregular fashion, causing the atria to quiver instead of contract. Additionally, not all electrical signals may reach the ventricles. Because of these abnormalities, the chambers may be unable to move all of the blood around, causing some blood to pool. When this happens, blood clots can form. It is these blood clots that increase your risk of stroke. A blood clot can travel out of the heart. Within the bloodstream, it can travel to the brain, where it can block blood flow and cause a stroke. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke , having atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke by about four to six times.

Learning About Silent Strokes
Stroke is known for its sudden onset of easily recognizable symptoms like one-sided muscle weakness and paralysis. Yet, it’s possible to suffer a stroke without experiencing any symptoms. This is known as a silent stroke and having atrial fibrillation increases your risk of them. Despite their lack of obvious symptoms, silent strokes can inflict significant damage on the brain cells and can lead to dementia. It is possible to have several silent strokes without realizing it. They may only be detected if a neurologist runs a brain scan.

When a stroke occurs, every second counts. Exceptional stroke care is available at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center —a Certified Primary Stroke Center in Las Vegas. Call 911 to request emergency care for a stroke or, for non-emergent inquiries only, call a registered nurse at our hospital at (702) 233-5300.

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