Do my past heart problems increase my chance of stroke?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 08, 2016
Chelios asked...

Possibility of stroke with controlled Atrial Fibrillation.

I am a healthy 55 year old who was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation eighteen years ago. A had an ablation procedure done four years ago when medication was no longer sufficient to control my Atrial Fibrillation. At first, I had no sensation of "skipped" beats, but now, four years later, I feel a few every day. The Atrial Fibrillation is under control except for these "skips" that occur during times of emotional or physical stress and sometimes for no reason at all. I watch my diet and have exercised my entire life (a variety of jogging, walking, and weight lifting 4-5 times a week) because I have always enjoyed the activity and otherwise feel fine. However these occasional "skips" which I have been told may or may not be Premature Ventricular Complexes have me worried. They feel like the beginning of an Atrial Fibrillation episode, but quickly vanish after just a skip or two. I have read that some people suffer with PVC's many thousands of times a day. Mine are limited to as few as two a day or as many as twenty or so in a day. I am on a mild blood pressure medication (Lopressor) and a low dose statin for cholesterol, both of which are under control. After my 84 year old father had a stroke 4 years ago, and the 65 year old father of a friend (a police officer who was otherwise seemingly healthy) had a mild stroke two weeks ago (caused some numbness in his left arm, hand and face), I have felt the need to check my possibilities of having a stroke in the future. I try very hard to eat correctly, stay in shape, and control my blood pressure and cholesterol. Does my past bout with Atrial Fibrillation and my current, occasional PVC episodes increase my chance of stroke? Should I consider any other type of medication besides a daily baby aspirin? Thank you for your attention.

Expert Answers

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

I understand how those "skipped" beats can be worrisome, especially with your past history of atrial fibrillation (AF). Occasional PVCs will not increase your risk for a stroke. If you have not had a Holter monitor to determine what the skipped beats are, I would suggest having one to make sure you aren't having little runs of AF. Some people have episodes of AF and are not aware of them. If that were the case, you would need to discuss blood thinners (Coumadin)with your cardiologist. The need for the blood thinner would depend on the amount and duration of AF if that were the case. If you are having AF and not on blood thinners the risk for stroke would increase.

If possible, check your pulse daily to be sure it is regular. If you feel a skip or two, just recheck it to be sure it returns to normal. Also, consider speaking with your physician about wearing a Holter monitor to evaluate what the "skips" really are.

Community Answers

Chelios answered...

From Chelios:

Dear Carolyn and Margie, Thank you for your response to my long-winded question. I did wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours about a year ago when I began experiencing more Premature Ventricular Contractions on a daily basis. My cardioligist saw nothing to be concerned about, and said he saw no evidence of AF. However, it took much prodding from me to get him to finally admit that he saw some PVC's. Although he tried to reassure me that PVC's are relatively benign in most cases, I couldn't help but feel less than reassured by his diagnosis because of my past history with AF. It's just that in the four years since the ablation procedure, the strange beats seem to be gradually occuring more frequently. After living with AF for 15 years, I know what it feels like. Even my doctors were surprised by my ability to know when I was or wasn't in AF, as many patients don't feel it. I haven't had any little runs of AF (unless it occurs while I am sleeping) that I am aware of, and the Holter monitor verified this fact. I may contact the electro-physiologist who did my ablation procedure and seek his opinion as he may be more qualified to diagnose any tyoe of irregular beat. I guess I should be thankful that the ablation was successful and that I only have a few PVC'S most days. Again, thanks for your reply, it was most helpful.