What are the dangers of atrial fibrillation? Can you die from atrial fibrillation?
After an afib diagnosis those are usually the first questions everyone asks.
The good news is afib by itself isn’t usually deadly. It might feel pretty horrible, but the attack on its own generally won’t harm you.
However, being an afib patient carries two major risks, and both of those risks are dangerous. The first risk is that you’ll suffer from a stroke.
Afib can cause blood clots, and those clots, in turn, can block the blood flow to the brain. An afib stroke can actually be a lot more severe than any other kind of stroke. The latter half of this video demonstrates how blood clots form and how they can cause a stroke as a result of atrial fibrillation:
There are also “silent strokes” that manifest as a type of dementia. They’re silent because the other stroke symptoms just aren’t there. You or your loved ones might not be aware you’ve had a stroke at all under these circumstances.
This is one reason why it’s very important to follow all of your doctor’s orders.
Not following your doctor’s orders is akin to not having treatment. Those who aren’t being treated are 5 to 7 times more likely to get a stroke.
One thing that your doctor may do to reduce the risk of stroke is to prescribe blood thinners like Warfarin (Coumadin) or Pradaxa. These blood thinners can greatly reduce your risk of suffering from a blood clot.
There are some surgical alternatives to blood thinners. For example, there’s a device called the SentreHeart Lariat II. This closes off the left atrial appendage, which is the portion of your heart that generates blood clots. This prevents the clots from passing through to the rest of your body.
This alternative does reduce the overall flow of blood through your body, however. It could lead to a reduction of activity as a result.
Currently the US is testing another surgical alternative to blood thinners called the Watchman Device. This is a device that is inserted into your heart. It’s meant to catch blood clots before they move through your body and become dangerous.
Stroke is not the only risk of afib. Atrial fibrillation reduces your blood flow over all, which can damage your organs, including your brain. And, of course, it damages your heart as well, weakening it and making you more prone to heart failure.
All of this can understandably cause a great deal of anxiety and even depression. The emotional distress of afib can be a complication as well! It’s not uncommon for afib patients to be on anxiety and antidepressant drugs.
Afib is a progressive disease, which means it can get worse over time. Get treatment early and comply with your treatment plan. This is the best way to slow the progress of the disease and to prevent nasty complications.
Afib is a common condition. It’s actually the most common heart problem that doctors deal with today. The treatment plans and tests are well established, and you have many options.