Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disorder, occurring in about 0.5 - 1 per cent of the population. "This risk increases with age and it is projected that people over the age of 40 have a one in four chance of develop​ing a​trial fibrillation," say doctors from the Department of Neurology at t​he National Neuroscience Institute​, a member of the SingHealth​ group.​

Other risk factors for AF include:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart failure and heart disease
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity

Atrial fibrillation may be present with symptoms such as palpitations (an awareness of the heart beating), shortness of breath, easy fatigability, light-headedness or fainting. It can also be present without any symptoms.

Atrial fibrillation may be diagnosed from a recording of your heart's electrical activity called an electrocardiogram (ECG) and after a doctor has conducted a thorough medical examination.

Why is atrial fibrillation a risk factor for stroke?

The irregular heart rhythm in atrial fibrillation causes poor pumping of blood out of the upper chambers of the heart. This leads to a pooling of the blood within these chambers, making it easier for blood clots to form.

These clots can break off, travel in the bloodstream and obstruct blood flow to the brain, thereby limiting the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, causing a stroke. Most strokes caused by atrial fibrillation are severe in nature.

See next page for tips on reducing your risk of atrial fibrillation-related stroke​​​​.

​Ref: P16