Atrial fibrillation and stroke

What are atrial fibrillation and stroke?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat in which the heart pumps faster than it should.

This reduces the heart’s efficiency, which means that blood clots are more likely to form in the atria, increasing the risk of a stroke.

A stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the blood and oxygen supply to part of the brain is cut off.

What causes atrial fibrillation and stroke?

Atrial fibrillation can occur in anyone but there are certain risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing it:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • An overactive thyroid gland
  • A lung infection
  • Pulmonary embolism which is a blood clot in the lung

Anyone can also have a stroke, but atrial fibrillation does increase a person’s chances of having one.

An irregular and fast heartbeat can cause blood clots to form in the heart. These can then travel to the brain through the bloodstream. If one blocks an artery leading to the brain a stroke can occur.

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation and stroke?

The symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:

  • Palpitations
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue

The word FAST can be used to help you to remember the main symptoms of a stroke:

  • F- Face. The whole face or just the mouth and/or an eye may droop on one side and the person may be unable to smile.
  • A – Arms. Weakness or numbness in one arm resulting in the person being unable to hold their arm up and keep it there.
  • S – Speech. Their speech may be slurred or they may not be able to talk at all, or they may have difficulty understanding others.
  • T – Time. If someone is showing any symptoms of a stroke 999 should be called immediately.

Are you affected by atrial fibrillation and stroke?

If you’re affected by atrial fibrillation and stroke, The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help on all aspects of living with atrial fibrillation and stroke, emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities to people with atrial fibrillation and stroke and their family, friends and carers from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Looking to talk to someone?

Woman smiling, making eye contact and holding the hand of another woman to comfort her

Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone with atrial fibrillation and stroke

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone with atrial fibrillation and stroke? It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including atrial fibrillation and stroke, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

The Brain Charity's library

The Brain Charity’s library has a range of resources on atrial fibrillation and stroke and on many other disability-related issues.

Visit our library to read:

  • Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Stroke by Stroke Association.
  • Stroke by Brain and Spine Foundation.
  • Stroke by NHS Choices.

Or search the catalogue online here.

Support groups

Different Strokes

Different Strokes have a network of support groups across the UK and also have an online support group for stroke survivors.


Phone: 0345 130 7172


Think Ahead Stroke

Think Ahead Stroke offers a range of support groups and activities for those who have had a stroke.


Phone: 0194 282 4888


Atrial Fibrillation Online Support Group

Online sessions for those affected by the condition and their supporters, carers, friends and family.


Phone: 0800 018 1024


Support groups at The Brain Charity

Are you interested in setting up an atrial fibrillation and stroke support group, or do you already run one?

Email to let us know.

Alternatively, you can check out our list of related support groups here.

Other charities

Stroke Association

Success After Stroke

Atrial Fibrillation Association