Stroke Risk and AFib
Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke: Don't Make It Worse
The American Heart Association says, through a survey, that only 33% of people living with atrial fibrillation think they have a serious condition. Less than half of patients realize they are at an increased risk for stroke. AFib can cause blood clots in the heart and these blood clots are what lead to the higher risk of stroke. Because the blood clots are caused in the heart, which always travel directly up to the brain, the strokes associated with AFib are almost always major and come with severe consequences, including death. The good news is that stroke prevention for AFib patients can occur by following some very simple guidelines.
Taking prescribed medication is the most important step in preventing a stroke. The vast majority of atrial fibrillation treatments prescribed will be a blood thinning or anticoagulant medication. AFib causes the blood in the heart to be stagnate, because of this stagnation platelets begin to adhere to each other, which is how the blood clot is formed. The medications prescribed will help to keep platelets from adhering to each other, thus preventing a blood clot. Be aware of how other medications interact with coagulants. Antibiotics need to be adjusted accordingly by the doctor to prevent any negative affects between medications. Multi-vitamins, aspirin, herbs, and birth control are also substances that should be talked about with a doctor before consumption. Some birth control interactions with coagulants can cause death.
There are heart healthy foods that a person with AFib should be conscious of. Heart healthy foods are high in fiber and low in cholesterol, fat, and sodium. Great high fiber foods include quinoa and steel cut oats. High fiber foods should not include an excessive amount of leafy green vegetables, because they are high in vitamin K. The liver uses vitamin K to produce clotting factors, which are then sent throughout the bloodstream, including to the heart. A balanced amount of leafy greens is needed to stay healthy. Avoid eating high cholesterol foods. High cholesterol foods cause an increase plaque to build up in arteries, which then allows for small clots to potentially cause large problems. A good low cholesterol food is fish, especially oily fish. Low fat foods include skim milk, lean cuts of meat, and fruits. High fat foods have similar effects on the arteries as high cholesterol. The AHA suggests ingesting less than 1500mg of sodium a day for people with heart disease and AFib patients should ingest even less. Water molecules follow sodium molecules, which leads to increased fluid levels in the body. Increased fluid levels cause an increased work load on the heart. The harder the heart has to work, the more at risk a person is for stroke. Two very important drugs to avoid are alcohol and caffeine. These two substances, used apart or together, are known to cause the heart to go into AFib. Patients with AFib who continue to ingest these are at an even greater risk of stroke, even when taking their medication.
Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, which leads to stroke. Nicotine is a cardiac stimulant, which causes the heart to have a heavier work load.
Whether or not a person has AFib, physical activity is important to overall health. It can be even more important a person with AFib, because it increases the strength of the heart. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight and improves blood flow. Blood flow is important in preventing stroke to help decrease stagnation.