WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE OF A CRYPTOGENIC STROKE?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) increases the risk of stroke more than 5 times2 but it often goes undetected since it can happen infrequently or without symptoms.

NORMAL HEARTBEAT

Normal Heartbeat

A small pulse of electric current spreads quickly through the heart to make the muscle contract.

ATRIAL FIBRILLATION

Atrial Fibrillation

In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers quiver faster than the rest of the heart.

AFib may cause you to feel one or more of these symptoms:

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Thumping or pounding heartbeats
  • A feeling that the heart is racing
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fainting or light-headedness
  • Fatigue, shortness of breath or weakness

However, some people have no symptoms and discover that they have AFib at a doctor’s appointment.

Risk factors

Some risk factors that contribute to AFib can be controlled or modified, like managing high blood pressure and reducing alcohol consumption. Some risk factors you cannot control, such as advancing age and family history. Controllable risk factors include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Excess weight
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Stress
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Lack of exercise
  • Some medications
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid disorders

But there are several non-controllable risk factors:

  • Family history
  • Advancing age
  • Heart disorders from birth
  • Gender — males have a higher incidence of AFib

Reference

  1. Liao J, Khalid Z, Scallan C, Morillo C, O’Donnell M. Noninvasive cardiac monitoring for detecting paroxysmal atrial fibrillation or flutter after acute ischemic stroke: a systematic review. Stroke 2007;38:2935–2940.
  2. 2014; 370(26):2478-2486.American Heart Association. Wolf PA, Abbott RD, Kannel WB. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: The Framingham Study. Stroke. August 1991;22(8):983-988. Accessed October 2013.