Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about why most patients with AFib should be taking an oral anticoagulant to prevent stroke.


Who is at risk of a stroke?
People with AFib are at increased risk of having a stroke if they:

  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high blood sugar
  • Have weak heart function
  • Have already had a stroke or mini-stroke
  • Over 64 years old
  • Have had a heart attack or leg blood vessel blockage
  • Are women

If I have AFib only occasionally, am I still at risk of stroke?
Yes, the risk is similar whether your AFib is all the time, often, or only occasionally.

What is an anticoagulant?
Anticoagulants are medications that:

  • Prevent blood clots
  • Keep existing clots from moving

Examples of anticoagulant medications include: Coumadin®, Eliquis®, Pradaxa®, Savaysa®, warfarin, and Xarelto®.

How should I take the anticoagulant medication?

  • Take your medication exactly as directed by your doctor
  • Take it at the same time each day
  • If you forget to take your medication one day, take a dose as soon as possible on the same day
  • Do not take a double dose the following day to “catch up”

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, are  breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, if you have liver or kidney problems, or are planning to have surgery.

Will anticoagulant medications prevent strokes?
Anticoagulant medications can prevent stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation.

What about aspirin?
Aspirin alone is not an effective medication for decreasing the risk of stroke due to atrial fibrillation.

Can I take low dose (81mg) aspirin and my blood thinner?

The risk of having a major bleeding event increases by 1.5 to 2 fold with the addition of aspirin to a blood thinner. The most common reasons for appropriate use of aspirin in combination with blood thinners would be in patients with a heart attack or stent within the last year. All patients on aspirin in addition to a blood thinner should discuss with their doctors if there is a clear reason to be on the aspirin, and they should stop the aspirin if there is not a specific reason to be taking it. Stopping the aspirin will decrease your risk of having a bleeding event when you are already taking blood thinners for stroke prevention with atrial fibrillation.

How can I keep myself safe from bleeding and falls?

  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush and waxed dental floss
  • Use an electric razor to shave
  • Be careful with sharp objects: toothpicks, knives, tools, scissors, etc.
  • Wear shoes or non-skid slippers at all times
  • Avoid NSAIDs (medications often used to treat arthritis and/or occasional pain or discomfort. Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen).
  • Be careful when trimming toenails or callouses
  • Avoid activities that increase risk of falls or involve hard contact, such as contact sports

Is it OK to take an anticoagulant medication if I have had bleeding? What if I fall?

  • If you are at high risk for bleeding, the use of an anticoagulant medication depends on whether the benefit of preventing a stroke is more important than the risk of bleeding. Talk with your doctor about your risk.
  • The benefits of preventing stroke outweigh the risk of bleeding for many people who might fall.

Is there something to reverse the effect of anticoagulant medications? An antidote?

  • Yes, there are antidotes for warfarin and Pradaxa®
  • Reversal drugs are in development for other anticoagulant medications
  • There is no antidote for aspirin

Will this medicine interact with other medicines or foods?

  • Warfarin interacts with foods that are high in vitamin K
  • You should ask your doctor or pharmacist for a list of food interactions
  • Xarelto® should be taken with food to help your body absorb the medicine

Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about any medications or foods that might affect your anticoagulant medication including  nonprescription medicines, vitamins, minerals, supplements, and herbs.

Am I at risk for stroke?

  • Patients with AFib are at increased risk for stroke. The risk increases as the CHA2DS2-VASc score increases.
  • Complete the CHA2DS2-VASc calculator to determine your personal risk.