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Why having AF increases your stroke risk

If you have atrial fibrillation (AF) your risk level for stroke is considered five times higher than normal.1 Fortunately—with your physician’s help and by taking some practical steps—you can act to lessen this risk.

The irregular heartbeat caused by AF means the blood moves unevenly in the chambers of the heart. Sometimes it can pool in the heart’s upper chambers, which may form blood clots. A clot formed this way can be transported in the blood stream to the brain where it can cause a stroke.1

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off by the clot. Like all the body’s organs, the brain needs oxygen and nutrients to function properly and these are provided by the blood supply. Depending how long the blood supply is cut off for, brain damage can occur and this may be temporary or permanent. 2

Understand link between AF and Stroke Enlarge image

So what can be done to prevent clots forming?

Luckily there are treatments to prevent clots forming inside your heart. These are called anticoagulants and antiplatelets.

They help reduce stroke risk by helping to prevent blood from ‘coagulating’ or clotting. This is why they are usually an important part of the long-term medical treatment for people who have AF.

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1. Atrial fibrillation patient information. Atrial Fibrillation Society. March 2010
2. www.americanheart.org/presenter Accessed 17 May 2011.