There are two major categories of strokes: transient ischemic and hemmorhagic. Transient ischemic strokes occur when not enough oxygen gets to part of the brain due to damaged blood vessels or a clot. Hemmorhagic strokes occur when there is bleeding in the brain. If the cause of an ischemic stroke cannot be determined, it is considered cryptogenic or a stroke of unknown origin.
Finding the cause of the stroke helps guide therapy. No stroke mechanism is found in one-third of cryptogenic stroke cases.
Atrial fibrillation may lead to strokes. Atrial fib is an irregular rhythm in the top portion of the heart. It may feel like shortness of breath, light headed sensation, or like your heart is racing. However, you may not always feel atrial fib episodes.
Due to atrial fib's asymptomatic and infrequent nature, short-term monitors do not always detect it. If the root cause of a stroke has not been determined, there are new, long-term implantable cardiac monitors that can help to detect atrial fib so doctors can change a patient's medication if needed to help reduce the risk of a second stroke. One such device is the miniaturized heart monitor called the Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor.
Blood thinners may work for patients who aren’t troubled by their atrial fib. Others may require a lifetime of prescription medication.
Ablation therapy is a newer alternative for those who don’t want to take pills for life. Tiny catheters are inserted in the blood vessels between the hip and groin. These catheters are passed to the heart to locate the origin of the atrial fib. A burning or freezing catheter is used to destroy the tissue that is causing the atrial fib. It takes about two hours and requires an overnight stay.
Diet modification and exercise may help control the rhythm of the heart. Individuals have different triggers and respond differently to treatments.
Stroke Warning Signs
- Change in smile
- Weakness in an extremity
- Family members notice one side of the face is drooping
- Difficulty drinking or eating without dribbling
- Difficulty finding and expressing a word
Listen in as Dr. Rod Passman discusses how to reduce risk of stroke and how atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke.