Stroke prevention guidelines and management.

Is atrial fibrillation harmless? Can it cause a stroke?

Photo by Vinicius "amnx" Amano on Unsplash

CAN ATRIAL FIBRILLATION KILL YOU? WHAT YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT HEART ARRHYTHMIA STROKE PREVENTION.

The most serious risks emanating from Afib are:

STROKE

HEART FAILURE

CHRONIC FATIGUE

ADDITIONAL HEART RHYTHM PROBLEMS

INCONSISTENT BLOOD SUPPLY

But the main and most serious problem is the risk of stroke.

In short, a stroke is a brain attack and happens when the blood supply to a part of your brain is cut off, according to STROKE.ORG.

This can happen if you have afib because the upper chambers of your heart (atria) do not contract properly, they only quiver. Without proper contractions of the atria (two upper chambers of your heart), some blood may remain in them and pool.

If your blood gets the opportunity to pool it can clot.

If a blood clot formed in your atria (upper heart chambers) is pumped out of the heart into the brain it can block the blood supply to a part of the brain and cause a stroke according to HEART.ORG.

Knowing this is one of the fundamentals of heart arrhythmia stroke prevention and management.

Atrial fibrillation can increase the risk of stroke by 5(five).

If you have afib, how can u prevent a stroke? Here are 11 tips.

1. The best option is to try and cure the afib first.

2. Know what your CHA2DS2-VASc score is:

C- Congestive Heart Failure

H- Hypertension

A- Age 75 and older

D- Diabetes Mellitus

S- Stroke, Tia or Te

V- Vascular Disease

A- Age 65 to74

S- Sex Category

Check your own score at YOUR CHADSVASC SCORE, but do consult your own doctor or cardiologist because there may be some patient-specific considerations that must be taken into account.

3. Use anticoagulants, like warfarin, or new/novel oral anticoagulants (NOAC’s), like dabigatran(Pradaxa), apixaban, and rivaroxaban as prescribed by your doctor to keep your INR at the right level.

Currently, I’m on Xarelto 20mg a rivaroxaban tablet because I was in AFIB about 3 weeks ago. My cardiologist recommended that I stay on this Xarelto and Arycor 200mg for 6 weeks after my cardioversion.

The use of anticoagulants is one of the main pillars of heart arrhythmia stroke prevention.

There is an interesting study that suggests that warfarin may not be the best choice for Asian patients and that they would rather benefit from using NOAC’s

The main difference between “old” anticoagulants like warfarin and the new oral anticoagulants (NOAC’s) is that you do not have to test your INR that regularly. Another difference is that the NOAC’s do not interact with other medicines and food that much.

Do remember that warfarin has been used for decades, and therefore, it is known what it can do and also what it’s side effects are. The NOAC’s are new kids on the block and possibly not all the side effects are not known yet.

Old and new anticoagulants are mentioned above, but for many reasons like:

  • The risk of bleeding
  • Trouble maintaining a normal INR
  • Certain foods that contain vitamin K that must be limited
  • Concerns about the cost of medication, and some other reasons

Anticoagulants may not be the best option for some people.

The good news is that anticoagulants do not have to be your alpha and omega because there are other procedures available to stop a stroke.

They include appendage closure and here is more info.

There is a small ear-shaped sac, in the muscle wall of the left atrium and it is called the left atrial appendage (LAA). If a patient is in atrial fibrillation the impulses are fast and chaotic, and that means that the atria (top chambers of the heart) cannot effectively squeeze the blood into the ventricles.

Blood that collects in this LAA can form clots. If these clots in the LAA is then pumped out of the heart they can cause a stroke, usually in the brain where it can be called a brain attack or, better known as a stroke.

With enough heart arrhythmia stroke prevention knowledge, a clot can be stopped from forming.

To stop this clot from forming your doctor may recommend a procedure to seal off your left atrial appendage (LAA). For more information go to Appendage Closure, or see list below:

A. The WATCHMAN Device. It is a parachute-shaped device and is self-expanding that closes off the LAA. It is implanted percutaneously (through the skin) in an electrophysiology (EP) lab. The procedure does not require surgery but general anesthesia may be used to do the procedure. A catheter sheath into a vein near the groin is used to get to the opening of the LAA. It the seals off the LAA. Usually used in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, and the patient must use warfarin for at least 45 days after implantation.

B. The LARIAT procedure. With this procedure, a device is used to lasso or place a stitch loop around the left atrial appendage (LAA) so that it is closed off. Unlike the WATCHMAN you do not have to take warfarin after the LARIAT procedure. Watch a short video: LARIAT PROCEDURE

C. Surgical removal. This is usually done when other cardiac procedures are done like the maze procedure or mitral valve surgery.

D. Amplatzer CardiacPlug. This device is inserted into the opening of the LAA. It seals off the left atrial appendage (LAA).

4. Stay fit by doing regular physical activities.

5. Enjoy a heart-healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats.

6. Keep high blood pressure under control. If you have high blood pressure, examine your lifestyle, speak to your doctor, and do your best to control it.

7. Avoid excessive use of alcohol and caffeine. The term “holiday heart” reveres to your heart rhythm going out due to the excessive use of alcohol and binge drinking.

Drinking coffee is not the only way that you take in caffeine, although some research suggests that drinking coffee may not have such a big influence on triggering afib. Every person will differ in this case because I believe that types of coffee, frequency of drinking, and how you drink your coffee will differ very much.

For me, the problem was using an energy drink with caffeine in it. I usually take very good care of what I drink, but in this case, I failed the test and was admitted to the hospital two days later, with afib. I was on a 60km mountain bike training ride and drank an energy drink of someone else because I did not have my own that day. So please read the labels on energy drinks or supplements.

Be very aware of any stimulants that you take because they usually increase your heart rate and have many other side effects. Nearly all asthma medications have stimulants in them, and some, pain killers, cough medicines, and other medicines also. Nicotine is also a stimulant.

8. Do not smoke, it is bad for everyone — enough said.

9. Control your cholesterol.

10. Control your weight.

11. Control your blood sugar.

Heart arrhythmia stroke prevention knowledge can save your life.

Many if not most of the above-mentioned factors can be controlled. Because many of these factors and actions are easy to control we tend not to do them. In The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson talks about the effectiveness of mastering the mundane. This may mean using only one sugar and not two, exercising every day and not just once a week, choosing broccoli over chips, water over alcohol/coffee, and many other daily choices and then keeping yourself accountable.

One of the best ways that I control most of these factors is by keeping, enjoying, and controlling my mornings, and to put myself on the right track every day, I go through the following routine every (or nearly) every morning in the following order.

My Morning Start-Up for Health:

1. Drink a glass of water

2. Pray

3. Exercise, nearly always a few sit-ups and maybe pushups, usually not longer than 15 minutes. Sometimes when I’m not motivated I only do a few stretches.

4. Eat breakfast, at the moment, it is muesli, yogurt, honey, and cinnamon.

5. Read my bible, first good news, then nr 6 the bad/news.

6. Read news or messages on my phone.

7. Drink coffee, but I want to drink more Rooibos tea. Read about Rooibos tea here.

8. Shower, and then off to work.

Many successful people use a morning routine to start the day right, and Hal Elrod wrote a wonderful book about how to master it.

But to get back to the main point, of surviving afib, and that is that stroke is the biggest problem. It is not the only possible complication that can develop out of afib but it is the main risk. The big concern is that stroke is an attack! an attack of the brain. It is sudden and can be deadly.

Take note of heart arrhythmia stroke prevention, as well as the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. The easiest way to remember the signs is by using the F.A.S.T method as demonstrated on the Strokeassociation.org website at STROKE WARNING SIGNS

In short STROKE WARNING SIGNS are:

F — Face drooping: Is one side of the face drooping or numb. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A-Arm weakness: Weakness or numbness in one arm. Ask the person to raise his/her arms. Is one arm drifting forward?

S — Speech difficulty: Is the person’s speech slurred? Is it hard to understand the person or is he/she unable to speak? Can the person repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue”

T– Time to call an emergency number, in the USA 9–1–1, Europe 112, UK, and other countries 999 and in South Africa 112: Call an emergency number if someone shows any of these symptoms even if the symptoms go away. Get the person to the hospital immediately, and check the time the first symptoms appeared, because it can help the doctors in the treatment procedure.

So afib itself may not kill you but what flows out of afib (blood clots and stroke) can kill you. Get enough heart arrhythmia stroke prevention facts so that you can protect yourself.

I am not a Doctor or health professional and am only speaking out of my own experience and research. Please ask your own doctor, caregiver, or health professional about how to deal with heart disease, AFIB, and stroke.

www.myafibheart.com Blogger, Tetralogy of Fallot(TOF), AFIB(Atrial fibrillation) and panic! survivor. Mountain Biker.Married and father of 2.South African.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store