When you think of the consequences of a stroke, you may not consider heart issues. But, recent studies suggest that heart problems and stoke could go hand in hand. Specifically, the risk of cardiac problems increases significantly in patients just after a stroke, which is also a factor that could complicate a patient’s recovery. 

Increased Risk of Heart Problems After Stroke

According to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, both men and women have a significantly higher risk of serious heart problems following a first stroke, even if they don’t have a known underlying heart issue. 

Researchers studied data related to over 93,000 patients in Canada, ages 66 and over. Of those, more than 21,500 had suffered an ischemic stroke. None of the subjects in the study had apparent heart disease. But, within 30 days, the risk of heart failure, heart attack, and cardiovascular death increased 25 times for women and 23 times for men. After a year, the study found that the risk of a cardiovascular event was still twice as high for both men and women compared to people who had not had a stroke. 

According to researchers, the connection might relate to risk factors shared between the two diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. The brain and heart also share strong neurological connections, so damage to one area can lead to issues with the other. 

Common Heart Problems Following a Stroke

Heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrest are all conditions that are more likely to occur in the days and weeks following a stroke. When your heart beats rapidly, ineffectively, or uncontrollably, this is referred to as “atrial flutter” or “atrial fibrillation.”

With atrial flutter, the heart beats fast, but with a regular rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, the heart beats erratically. Both conditions are dangerous and can lead to blog clots, which could cause a heart attack as well as an additional stroke. 

Ways to Prevent Cardiac Issues After Stroke

When a patient has a stroke, every second and minute counts. Effective and rapid response is vital to producing a positive outcome in stroke cases, and proper follow-up care can help minimize the risk of dangerous cardiac events following a stroke. 

According to a study released in Circulation Research, experts recommend that healthcare providers use a set of risk factors to identify patients for continuous heart monitoring following a stroke:

  • Patients over 75 years old
  • History of one or more of these conditions: high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, or previous stroke
  • Major rather than minor stroke
  • Any changes in electrocardiogram results
  • High systolic blood pressure
  • High troponin 1 levels
  • High serum creatinine levels

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