Many patients who are diagnosed with afib remain unaware of the potential risk of stroke that can be exacerbated due to their heart condition. In fact, many afib patients are not placed on anti-stroke drugs such as blood thinners as their cardiologists are negligent in this regard for unknown reasons. In fact, recent research has revealed that as many as 50% of active afib patients are currently untreated with blood thinners or other stroke prevention medication. The ramifications of afib can increase the likelihood of blood clotting which is known to lead to strokes.
Research has shown that the use of both aspirin, as well as an anticoagulant, is often the best course of treatment to reduce the likelihood of stroke in this subset of cardiology patients. While this treatment combination is currently used in only one-quarter of current afib patients, it has been deemed the most effective as long as patients are made aware of the importance of taking a stroke prevention medication.
There are several symptoms to watch for if you are concerned about having a stroke as a patient being treated for afib, simply remember the sign of FAST:
- FACE dropping
- ARMS sinking downward
- SPEECH that is slurred or garbled
- TIME to seek immediate medical attention.
Warfarin is the most common blood thinner that is used by patients that suffer from afib; this medication can increase the incidence of blood occurring in the brain, but its success rate far outweighs the likelihood of bleeding on the brain. Patients that are taking anticoagulant medications in addition to their afib medications will need to undergo regular testing to ensure that no unwanted or unhealthy side effects are occurring. There is also a risk that the blood may become too thin, or the brain bleeding that was mentioned previously.
The use of what are known as novel agents, such as Pradaxa, Xarelto, Savaysa, or Eliquis, should be avoided in patients who have a prosthetic heart valve of any kind. These new treatments are, however, beneficial in those patients that are at higher risk of cranial bleeding. The best treatment options for afib and the concurrent prevention of stroke are continuously updated and undergo innovation so that the treatment options available for these conditions can improve. Patients are best served by taking a proactive stance in the treatment of their afib while also remaining aware of the chances for a stroke.
Afib is a serious condition, and the likelihood of stroke occurring in such patients cannot be understated. If your doctor prescribes an anticoagulant for you take while you are being treated for afib, be sure to discuss your concerns with them prior to any changes in following their direction. Patients should never elect to stop taking a prescribed medication, especially one that is being used to prevent a condition as serious as a stroke. Your afib can be effectively managed while your likelihood of having a stroke can be minimized by following these guidelines.