Stroke and Heart Disease

Several types of heart disease are risk factors for stroke. Patients who have coronary artery disease, angina, heart failure, and/or who have had a heart attack due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) are at greater risk of stroke than those without these conditions.

People with atrial fibrillation (AFib) are five times more likely to have a stroke than those without it, and for some, the risk can be even greater. Patients with heart valve disease causing aFib are at the highest risk of having a stroke.

AFib and Stroke

We see a number of patients who’ve had terrible strokes that can be linked to inadequate treatment of AFib. It’s very likely these could have been prevented with the proper treatment.

AFib is a disorder that causes an irregular heartbeat. In many instances, there are no symptoms. Some people experience heart palpitations, which are sometimes described as a racing heart or a heart flutter. They can last a few seconds, or, if more chronic, they can last longer and have increased frequency.

When AFib is left untreated, blood flow in the top part of the heart (known as the atria) slows down. Sometimes, the slow blood forms a clot that can leave the heart and travel throughout the body. This is known in medical terms as an embolic event. When one of these clots reaches the brain, it can block a blood vessel and cause a stroke. The size and severity of the stroke depend on the size and location of the blocked brain vessel.

There are a number of treatments for AFib, including medications. Our stroke experts work with cardiologists to help determine the most appropriate course of treatment to manage the AFib and potentially prevent a major stroke from occurring.

Common Risk Factors for Stroke and Heart Disease

Stroke and heart disease share a number of risk factors. These include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Overweight/obese
  • Family history of heart disease

Many of these risk factors can be managed. Important goals to protect your personal health include:

  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Manage diabetes
  • Aim for a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Incorporate a heart-healthy diet
  • Engage in daily physical activity
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation

Incorporating these steps into your life will take you a long way, but in some cases further intervention may be needed. UT Southwestern offers every option available for treating heart disease to prevent stroke.

Get Help Managing Your Risks

Most types of heart disease and stroke are preventable. It’s all about managing your risks and adopting a healthy lifestyle. UT Southwestern’s cardiologists and neurologists can help patients understand their risks and work to lower the ones that are controllable.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a stroke or heart disease specialist at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas, or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.