Having AF definitely increases your chances for having a stroke, a debilitating, even deadly event that occurs when blood clots go to the brain. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts, and the brain can't get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function. As a result, that part of the brain starts to die, and you have a stroke. The most common cause of stroke is high blood pressure, which can cause a blood vessel to rupture.
According to the American Stroke Association, the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans in the United States is the highest in the world. That may explain why African Americans are more vulnerable to stroke and have almost twice the risk of strokes compared to whites.
Strokes can be divided up into three different types. Hemorrhagic stroke is the most serious form and occurs when a weakened blood vessel bursts.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain develops a clot and disrupts the blood flow to the brain. A clot formed in a blood vessel in the brain is called a thrombus. One that forms elsewhere and travels to the brain is called an embolus. These blood clots often come from the atrium of the heart in people who have AF.
Some people may have what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is considered a mini-stroke. A TIA occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off for a short period of time, often less then fifteen minutes. Although painless, a TIA is a serious signal that something is wrong.
The Thyroid Link
The link between stroke and the thyroid goes back to an increased risk for AF, which is a leading cause of stroke. That's why it's so important to get elevated levels of thyroid hormone under control and to tame any problems with your heart.
Why It's Bad
Having a stroke is a life-changing event. Every year, approximately 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke. As the third leading cause of death in the United States, stroke kills 157,000 people a year. Those who survive are at greater risk for another stroke and may also suffer a host of physical disabilities and difficulties. Muscles may involuntary contract and flex. Balance problems may make you vulnerable to hazardous falls. Some people are left to endure excruciating pain.
Other lasting effects of a stroke include difficulty speaking, hearing, and communicating. Some people may have problems swallowing. Others may have personality changes, and may suffer apathy, depression, and cognitive challenges.