AFib is an irregular heartbeat that keeps the upper and lower chambers of the heart from working together. This can cause blood to pool in the heart, which can lead to complications like blood clots.
Up to 6.1 MILLION Americans are estimated to have atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that causes:
Which lead to:
BLOOD POOLING IN THE HEART
A BLOOD CLOT TO FORM
"The causes of AFib are varied," explains Dr. Sanjum Sethi, a cardiologist at Columbia University Medical Center. Other causes include high blood pressure, sleep apnea, excessive consumption of alcohol, being overweight, smoking, diabetes, a family history of AFib, and other heart conditions.
“If you have a heart valve problem or prior cardiac surgery, those could predispose you to AFib, but most commonly, it’s a disease of aging…as we age, the incidence [of AFib] increases quite dramatically."
Dr. Sanjum Sethi
Janet's doctor explained the CHA2DS2-VASc score to her, which is based on certain conditions that determine risk for stroke. “The scoring system helps us determine what the actual risk is for developing stroke if you have AFib. Not every patient who has AFib is at equal risk for stroke. The CHA2DS2-VASc score allows us to determine which patients will benefit the most from receiving anticoagulation," explains Dr. Sethi. Janet has a score of 3 out of 9, with her age, gender, and type II diabetes as the three factors.
You can find out your score by using this calculator.
CHA2DS2-VASc: KNOW YOUR RISK
Add points below for each condition you have
CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE
Signs/symptoms of heart failure confirmed with test of heart failure
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Resting blood pressure >140/90 on at least 2 occasions or on blood pressure meds
Fasting blood sugar >125 mg/dL or on medications or insulin
Includes any history of stroke
Prior heart attack, peripheral artery disease, or aortic plaque
SEX CATEGORY (FEMALE)
Female gender means a higher risk
The American Heart Association recommends anticoagulation with a blood thinner for a score of 2 OR HIGHER.
REMINDER: Even if you are taking medicine to treat your AFib and not experiencing symptoms, YOUR STROKE RISK WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE OVER TIME.
YOUR DOCTOR IS ALWAYS YOUR BEST RESOURCE. He or she knows your situation best and can help you determine a treatment plan.
Common symptoms of AFib are a rapid and irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, chest pain or pressure, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, or fatigue—but some people experience no symptoms at all. When Janet was first diagnosed, she would experience short periods of heart racing but was lucky that her symptoms never reached extreme levels.
“AFib is tricky in the sense that some people are very symptomatic, and some people have no symptoms at all. AFib is an electrical problem of the heart where the top chamber is beating a lot faster than the bottom chamber. The body is often able to compensate for the electrical problem, so you may experience no symptoms at all."
Dr. Sanjum Sethi
Because of all her research, Janet was aware that AFib can cause blood clots, which can lead to stroke, so she made the decision with her doctor to start an aspirin regimen to lower her risks.
People with AFib are5 TIMES MORE LIKELY to have a stroke
Stroke is a serious consequence of AFib. Complications from AFib, such as heart palpitations and irregular heartbeats, can cause blood to pool in the heart, where a clot can develop.
Why blood clots matter:
Even if you are treating your AFib and feeling fine, your stroke risk continues to increase over time. That’s why it’s important to periodically review your CHA2DS2-VASc score with your doctor.
After initially treating AFib with aspirin, Janet saw a doctor who recommended a blood thinner called XARELTO®. While aspirin was once considered a treatment for those at low risk for stroke, the AHA no longer recommends aspirin for the treatment of AFib, regardless of risk level. As her own best advocate, Janet stays up-to-date on the benefits and risks of taking XARELTO®. Her husband also plays a large role in her health.
“He really wants me to take XARELTO® because he doesn't want me to have a stroke either. We support each other. He'll remind me to take my meds after dinner."
With 6 children and 15 grandchildren, there's no shortage of people who are counting on Janet to stay healthy. “I know how devastating [strokes] can be and I did think about my children and grandchildren and my husband…I thought if I could avoid having one, that would be good—live a longer life without impairment, that would be great. I know some people that've had strokes, and it's really tough," says Janet. Along with taking XARELTO®, Janet now exercises more. She belongs to a local gym and goes on a vigorous walk once a week. This has also allowed her to take advantage of her city's metro park system.
Janet is proof that working with your doctor is integral to managing AFib-related stroke and blood clots. A combination of her own research and conversations with various doctors has led her to a plan that includes once-daily XARELTO® to lower her risk for stroke. Because XARELTO® is a blood thinner, it helps prevent or reduce blood clotting, which significantly reduces the risk of stroke in people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem.