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Heart experts recommend newer drugs to treat AFib

Light orange tablets tumble out of an overturned orange medicine bottle. A white cap sits beside them.

Feb. 11, 2019—Warfarin (also known as Coumadin) has long been the standard treatment for atrial fibrillation (AFib). But the American Heart Association (AHA) and other heart experts now say newer anticoagulants should be used instead.

Anticoagulants are drugs that thin the blood to help prevent clots. They've long been used to reduce the risk of stroke in people with AFib.

AFib is an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood to pool in the upper chambers of the heart. That can encourage clots to form that could travel to the brain and block an artery, leading to a stroke.

Warfarin can help prevent clots. But it increases the risk for bleeding—especially bleeding in the brain. People who take warfarin need regular blood tests to make sure they're not taking too much.

Newer blood-thinning drugs don't carry the same risk as warfarin. They also don't require regular blood testing. These newer drugs are sold under brand names such as Pradaxa, Eliquis and Xarelto.

What AFib feels like

AFib is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm, according to the AHA. It can cause the heart to quiver, or fibrillate.

Symptoms of AFib can include:

  • A fast, irregular heartbeat.
  • Fatigue.
  • A fluttering or thumping in the chest.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety.
  • Light-headedness or confusion.
  • Sweating.
  • Chest pain or pressure.

If you have AFib, talk to your doctor about which medication is best for you. And if you experience chest pain, call 911 right away. You might be having a heart attack.

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