The biggest fear and danger of atrial fibrillation is the increased risk of stroke. If you have AF, you are approximately five times more likely to have a stroke. During AF, the heart is quivering and not actually pumping or ejecting the blood normally and the blood left in the heart can pool or clot. Once a clot forms, it can be very dangerous if it leaves the heart. Once it travels to the brain, for example, it will go as far as it can before it becomes stuck in a blood vessel, causing a stroke. The results of a stroke can include numbness, weakness and stiffness. It can impair the ability to speak, to form thoughts, to remember facts and names or how to walk and eat. A stroke can be so debilitating that you may need 24-hour care. Or worse, a stroke can be caused by such a large clot that much of your brain is deprived of oxygen resulting in death. In addition to stroke, over time AF can weaken the strength of your heart and lead to heart failure, which can also lead to death.
Atrial fibrillation is linked to approximately 15% of the strokes in the US alone. As patients with AF age, the chance of having a stroke increases. AF-related strokes are usually twice as likely to be deadly or extremely debilitating than non-AF strokes. About half of all those who suffer from a stroke linked to AF will die within a year.
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