AF Association News & Events

What is the Link Between Atrial Fibrillation and Having a Stroke?

You recently had a stroke. While you were in the hospital you heard your doctor say the stroke was most likely caused by AFib. You never heard of AFib before, and you didn’t know you had this condition. Well, you’re not alone, many people don't know about AFib or get tested for this condition, even though knowing can save your life. 

What is Atrial Fibrillation? 

 AFib is the most common arrhythmia, which means the heart is beating too slow, too fast, or in an irregular way. AFib is the most common type of treated arrhythmia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you have AFib, the beating in the upper chambers of your heart isn’t regular, and the blood isn’t flowing properly from the atria down to the lower heart chambers. You may experience AFib occasionally, or it can be a permanent condition. 

 Signs and Symptoms of AFib

  • Thumping in your chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Feeling tired
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling like you might faint
  • Feeling anxious

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your primary doctor. Let your doctor know how you’re feeling. Ask about AFib and discuss getting tested. Here is a link to AF Association one of our sister websites where you can download our Checklist on AFib before speaking to your doctor.

Can AFib Cause a Stroke?

If you have AFib, you’re at a much higher risk of experiencing an AF-related stroke. An AF-related stroke is an Ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots. If the blood isn’t pumping out of your heart properly it could create a pool of blood that forms a clot. That clot could then travel to your brain, causing an AF-related stroke. Ischemic strokes account for about 87 percent of strokes, according to the American Heart Association.

Stroke Warning Signs 

Keep in mind that if you have any of these warning signs, it's an emergency, and you should go straight to the emergency room. 

  • sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, or confusion
  • Dizziness, trouble walking
  • Weakness or numbness of the arm, leg, or face

Many people over the last several months have been afraid to go to the emergency room because of their fear of getting COVID-19. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should get help immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage can be done. Don’t let your fear stop you from getting the help you need. 

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