People with atrial fibrillation (AF) in whom normal heart rhythm is restored still have an increased risk for stroke, according to a 2018 study in The BMJ.
AF causes the heart to beat erratically, which can trigger ischemic strokes, the most common type. Normal heart rhythm can be restored with medical therapy, or may happen spontaneously. However, disturbed heart rhythm may recur, suggesting that people with resolved AF remain at risk. And that risk is significant, a team of British researchers discovered.
The investigators followed over 11,000 people with resolved AF for about three years, on average, and found that they were less likely than people who currently had AF to suffer strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, or mini strokes). However, compared with a control group of people with no history of AF, the men and women with resolved AF were about 60 percent more likely to suffer strokes or TIAs during the study period. Stated another way, about 5 percent of the people with resolved AF suffered strokes, compared with roughly 3 percent of people in the control group.
This study suggests that people with resolved AF can benefit from anticoagulant medications, also known as blood thinners, which reduce the risk for strokes. If you have a history of AF and you’re not taking an anticoagulant, ask your doctor soon if you’re a candidate for this medication.