Although an atrial fibrillation (Afib or AF) attack usually doesn’t have harmful consequences by itself, its presence increases the risk of blood clots (embolisms) forming in the heart—and if a clot travels to the brain, a stroke will result.
A scoring system known as CHA2DS2-VASc is currently the best way for your doctor to determine your need for stroke prevention therapy (such as prescription blood thinners). This system assigns scores to risk factors such as congestive heart failure; hypertension; age; diabetes; stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) history; vascular disease; and gender.
People with atrial fibrillation have long relied on warfarin (Coumadin) to reduce the risk of blood clots. New oral anticoagulants have entered the market, including dabigitran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), and edoxaban (Savaysa). Talk with your doctor about which is the best for you.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of evidence that aspirin alone prevents strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation.
Talk with your doctor about radiofrequency catheter ablation and whether this is an option for you. Ablation attempts to disconnect triggers that cause atrial fibrillation by selectively destroying tissue with low-voltage, high frequency electricity.