What is the connection between your heart’s rhythm and an increased risk of a stroke? Learn the correlation and how you can control your condition.
According to the American Heart Association, atrial fibrillation (Afib) affects approximately 2.7 million individuals in the United States alone. By definition, Afib is “a quivering or irregular heartbeat/arrhythmia” that can lead to a number of heart-related complications. Afib is generally caused due to rapid and unpredictable beating of the two upper chambers of the heart. On the other hand, a stroke is defined as “a sudden loss of brain function” which happens when a blood vessel feeding the brain bursts or get clogged. Known as the leading cause of deaths in the US, approximately 800,000 people suffer from a stroke every year in the country.
Afib is connected to the heart while a stroke concerns the brain, so how are they related?
Exploring the Connection between Afib and High Blood Pressure
Though high blood pressure is the more common denominator in people who suffer through a brain stroke, Afib is not that far behind.
The brain is a unique organ that is the control center of your body. It needs ample of blood and oxygen to function properly. When the brain does not receive the necessary amounts of blood and oxygen, brain cells begin to die at a rapid pace due to a lack of nourishment. In general, the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain gets cut off due to a burst blood vessel or a clogged artery. As the name indicates, high blood pressure causes the blood in a person’s body to pump with force that is too high. Over a period of time, this excessive force causes damage to all the arteries in the body, including the ones that pump blood to the brain. Weakened blood vessels are not strong enough to continue pumping nourishment to the brain in the right way. Such weakened blood vessels are susceptible to rupturing, getting blocked by plaque or clots, or get diseased in other ways.
When you add Afib to the mix, brain stroke risk increases by a large margin. This is due to the fact that the weakened blood vessels do not have the constitution to handle the rapid heartbeats caused by Afib. Resulting in pooling of blood in the heart, the situation gets further complicated by causing clots that can travel to the brain, and cause a stroke.
Heart doctors believe that while high blood pressure is the most common risk factor for strokes, it is also the most controllable one. On the other hand, Afib is the most powerful risk factor for a brain stroke. Why is it the most powerful? This is because a person with high blood pressure has double the risk of strokes as compared to someone who does not have it, while a person with Afib has 5 times the risk of stroke as compared to those who don’t.
Unfortunately, not much attention is ascribed to the Afib-stroke connection, because only a few million people suffer from this condition. In comparison, more than 80 million people suffer from high blood pressure in the United States alone. When it comes to being a more powerful potential risk factor though, Afib wins hands-down.
Afib and high blood pressure are not mutually exclusive conditions either. In fact, those who have high blood pressure are immediately at a higher risk of developing Afib. This is a lose-lose situation for the patient, because having both high blood pressure and Afib increases your chance of getting a stroke exponentially. Studies show that both men and women with high blood pressure in their middle-ages are more likely to develop Afib later on in their lives.
Afib Risk Factors
There are numerous and relatively well-publicized ways to control high blood pressure. Other than medications, patients are advised to shed the extra weight around their waistlines, exercise regularly, eat and drink healthy, reduce their salt intake, etc. However, there isn’t much information about controlling Afib that is readily available. The best place to start at is by trying to control and reduce the impact of all the factors that lead to Afib.
Risk factors for Afib include:
When it comes to controlling Afib, the process is as simple and as difficult as controlling the underlying cause of the condition. For example, if your Afib is being caused by excessive coffee consumption, it is possible to control the condition simply by heavily reducing your coffee intake. If asthma is the cause of Afib, treating this respiratory condition may be enough to reduce the occurrence and impact of Afib.
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