What You Need To Know about Atrial Fibrillation and Silent Strokes

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A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has linked atrial fibrillation to an increased risk of silent strokes. Here's what you need to know.

What is afib?

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia seen by doctors. The condition is characterized by the heart beating abnormally. These abnormal contractions allow blood to pool in the heart, forming clots that can travel to the brain and cause strokes.

What are silent strokes?

A silent stroke does not cause any symptoms, so a person isn't aware that one might be occurring. Although they tend to be small strokes and affect smaller sections of the brain, these strokes still damage brain tissue and may lead to larger strokes, as well as other chronic brain problems.

How are the two linked?

While the risk of strokes that show symptoms and cause significant brain damage have been observed in people with atrial fibrillation, the cause of these larger strokes may be silent strokes.

What did the study find?

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed 505 people with afib and 3,902 people without afib and measured their stroke risk. Silent strokes were found in nearly 46 percent of people with afib. Only 16 percent of those without afib carried the risk of silent strokes. This supports previous studies suggesting that afib puts people at risk for silent strokes that can lead to gradual brain damage.

How should I manage afib?

Leading a lifestyle with a healthy diet and exercise is key in managing afib.  Avoiding stimulants, quitting smoking, and reducing stress are among the ways to manage your A-Fib.

How should I manage stroke risk?

Certain conditions such as afib, diabetes, and hypertension increase your stroke risk. By leading a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your stroke risk. Blood thinning medications can also help manage your risk,  Remember to ask your doctor for the best steps you can follow.