AFib: New options to prevent stroke

ORLANDO, Fla. - Three years ago, Donna Marie Robinson was the picture of good health. 

"I was working out three times a week, high intensity," Robinson said.

But then Robinson was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, AFib, for short, which meant she had to slow down.
 
"Yeah, it's a little depressing. You don't have control over it," Robinson said.

With AFib, the upper chambers of the heartbeat irregularly and don't effectively move blood into the ventricles. 

"The problem is that the blood sits without moving through the heart, and as it sits, it has a tendency to form clots," said Karen Ocorr, assistant professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys.

If a clot breaks off and lodges into an artery leading to the brain, a stroke happens. For years, the gold standard medicine to prevent a stroke in AFib patients was the blood thinner, warfarin. 

But now, the American Heart Association recommends a class of medicines called non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants. It includes the drugs Eliquis, Pradaxa, Xarelto and Savaysa. 

With these newer therapies, patients don't need regular blood tests like they do with warfarin. Also, studies show they may be more effective than warfarin and less likely to cause bleeding. 

Robinson takes Eliquis to lower her risk of stroke. So far, so good. 

"I have a new normal," she stated.

Under the new guidelines, patients with AFib who have moderate to several mitral stenosis or an artificial heart valve should still take warfarin. 

Talk to your doctor to see if you're a candidate for the newer medicines. 

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