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AFib and Stroke Risk: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

The diagnosis? AFib. The risk, you are told, is stroke. Every day thousands of people, just like you, walk out of their doctor’s office thinking they will have a stroke. Does this sound familiar to you? 

A doctor hands you a list of pharmaceuticals you must take to reduce your stroke risk since you have AFib. Do you take them? Almost 800,000 people have a stroke each year in the United States, and without pharmaceutical intervention, you will soon become a statistic, right? Wrong. So does an AFIB diagnosis mean you will have a stroke? Read on to find out.

Can having AFib cause a stroke?

In AFib, disorganized electrical signals cause the upper chambers of the heart to quiver. Because of the chaotic pumping of the heart, blood can sometimes pool in the crevices of these upper chambers, causing a clot to form. If that clot breaks off from the left atrium, it can travel to the brain, causing an ischemic stroke. 

Studies have demonstrated up to a fivefold increase in overall stroke risk associated with atrial fibrillation. Certainly, that is an alarming statistic that would cause anyone with atrial fibrillation to be concerned. However, it’s essential to recognize the difference between this overall risk and your personal risk. By identifying how likely you are to have a stroke, you can make informed health decisions. 

How do I determine my stroke risk?

First developed in 2001 and later modified, the CHA₂DS₂VASc score is an acronym used for AFib patients to determine their actual stroke risk. 

The CHA₂DS₂VASc free calculator looks at the most common stroke risk factors and assigns a number to each, with a maximum score of nine. Females start with one point, while males begin with zero. Patients with a history of congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, or a history of a heart attack score one point per condition. Individuals 65-74 years old get one point, while those over 75 are given two points. A previous history of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack also counts for two points. 

Once you calculate your CHA₂DS₂VASc score, the tool allows you to determine the adjusted stroke rate risk percentage annually. 

For example, a 67-year-old male with no other risk factors would have a 1.3 percent risk of stroke. This is hardly the alarming news that many individuals are hearing from their doctors. But, on the other hand, a 76-year-old female with diabetes, high blood pressure, and a history of a previous stroke has close to a 10 percent chance of a subsequent stroke. 

Are pharmaceuticals necessary to prevent stroke?

Pharmaceutical drugs may have a place in treating atrial fibrillation in certain cases, but they come with significant risks and aren’t always necessary. Evidence suggests that the use of certain anticoagulants may lower immunity, and the cost associated with additional lab work and monitoring of patients on anticoagulants is substantial. Finally, a recent study found newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation patients on anticoagulant therapy did not experience a decreased risk of stroke. 

How to Reduce Your Risk of Stroke with AFib

Small lifestyle changes have a significant impact on stroke risk. The best version of yourself is not going to have a stroke, even without pharmaceuticals. 

Clean up your diet to reduce stroke risk 

Dozens of studies have demonstrated the positive correlation between obesity and stroke risk. In fact, for every 7 pounds that an individual is overweight, the stroke rate increases by approximately 5 percent. That means that an individual 30 pounds overweight has a 20 percent increased chance of stroke.

Reducing sugar consumption and adding nutrient-dense food to your diet can help you to lose those unwanted pounds. Adding fatty fish, such as salmon, to your dinner plate also lowers your stroke risk. A Swedish study showed that women who ate fish three times a week reduced their stroke risk by 16 percent.

Sleep better

In this fast-paced world, it’s easy to push sleep low on your priority list. However, our ancestors rose and slept with the sun, a practice that has long been forgotten. 

Some surprising research found that individuals who slept over 9 hours a day or took naps over 90 minutes had a 25 percent increased risk of stroke. Those that reported poor sleep quality had a higher risk of stroke. 

Turning off electronics at sunset, sleeping in a cooler environment, and rising with the sun are all helpful in reducing stroke risk.

Spend more time in the sun

Our society severely undervalues the healing power of sunshine. When the sun hits our skin, it produces Vitamin D from cholesterol. Vitamin D is an essential hormone needed to maintain good cardiovascular health. Vitamin D deficiencies have been shown to increase stroke risk. Maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels will decrease stroke risk and improve overall health. 

Prioritize happiness and stress management

It’s essential to find happiness in your life. One study showed that those suffering from depression had a 45 percent increased risk of having a stroke and a 55 percent increased risk of dying from a stroke. There have also been numerous studies showing that stress is a significant risk factor for stroke and AFib. 

Watching a sunrise, keeping a gratitude journal, meditating, and spending time with friends are great ways to unwind after a difficult day.

Get adjusted to reduce inflammation

Inflammation is a risk factor for stroke.  One way to reduce this inflammation is to see a chiropractor regularly. One study demonstrated that older adults who sought out chiropractic care for neck pain had a lower chance of stroke seven days later than those who had visited their primary care physician. 

Consider natural blood-thinning methods

Our world is filled with excellent natural nutrients that thin the blood. For example, garlic is a nutritional powerhouse with short-term blood-thinning effects. Other natural blood thinners include cinnamon, ginger, cayenne peppers, and turmeric. 

Next steps

Now that you can calculate your stroke risk, we hope that you will use this information to make informed decisions about your health moving forward. It may be that your risk is significantly lower than what you once thought, which is excellent news! If you want more information about your stroke risk, consider looking into our health analytics tool, CardiaX.

Stay on top of your score, stay healthy and make good lifestyle choices that will reduce your stroke risk and help you manage or eliminate your AFib.

Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well 


Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

In order to live well, one must eat well.

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About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

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Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

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Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.