Clots and stroke
One of the most common complications with atrial fibrillation is the formation of blood clots in the heart. As the blood in the upper chambers of the heart (atria) of a patient with atrial fibrillation does not flow out in a normal manner and is very turbulent, there is a greater likelihood of blood clots forming. The clots may then find their way into the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) and eventually end up in the lungs or in the general circulation. Clots in the general circulation may eventually block arteries in the brain, causing a stroke.
A patient with atrial fibrillation is twice as likely to develop a stroke compared to other people. 5% of patients with atrial fibrillation get a stroke each year. The risk is even greater the older the patient is. The following factors raise the risk of stroke even more for patients with atrial fibrillation:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart failure
- A history of blood clots (embolism)
Strokes may be severe and can cause paralysis of part of the body, speech problems, and even death.
If the atrial fibrillation is not controlled the heart is likely to get weaker. This may lead to heart failure. Heart failure is when the heart does not pump blood around the body efficiently or properly. The patient's left side, right side, or even both sides of the body can be affected.
There is a strong relationship between atrial fibrillation and the development of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
To prevent recurrences of atrial fibrillation:
- Don't consume products and drinks with caffeine (or at least cut down a lot).
- Watch out with some OTC (over-the-counter) medications, such as cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, as they can trigger atrial fibrillation.
- Some OTC medications interact with anti-arrhythmic medications. So look out for them. Talk to your pharmacist.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to reduce the incidence of certain cardiac arrhythmias.