People with atrial fibrillation are at increased risk of having a stroke. In extreme cases, atrial fibrillation can also lead to heart failure.

Stroke

When the upper chambers of the heart (atria) don't pump efficiently, as in atrial fibrillation, there's a risk of blood clots forming.

These blood clots may move into the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles), and get pumped into the blood supply to the lungs or the general blood circulation.

Clots in the general circulation can block arteries in the brain, causing a stroke.

Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of a stroke by around four to five times. However, the risk depends on a number of factors, including age and whether you have high blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure, diabetes and a previous history of blood clots.

Heart failure

If your atrial fibrillation is persistent, it may start to weaken your heart. In extreme cases, it can lead to heart failure, as your heart is unable to pump blood around your body efficiently.

Page last reviewed: 18/05/2015

Next review due: 01/05/2018