What is a Stroke and what causes it to happen?
A stroke is a condition in which brain cells suddenly die because of a lack of oxygen. This can be caused by an obstruction in blood flow, such as a blood clot, or the rupture of an artery that feeds the brain.
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) can be a cause of stroke. In AF, the upper chambers of the heart quiver rapidly instead of performing their normal pumping action. This may allow blood to stagnate and blood clots to form inside the heart.
The majority of cardiac blood clots form within an appendage attached to the left upper chamber of the heart. If a blood clot dislodges and travels to the brain, a stroke may result.
Some people may go through their lives with Atrial Fibrillation and never have a stroke, but others will. Several characteristics seem to increase a person's risk of having a stroke, including:
- History of high blood pressure, even when treated.
- Increasing age (in particular those over 75 years old).
- Having heart failure or weakened heart pump function.
- A history of a prior stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
In general, the more risk factors, the higher the risk of stroke. The risk of having a stroke each year varies from around 1% for people with no risk factors, through to about 17% for a person with all of the risk factors.