Most people with atrial fibrillation (also known as AF or AFib) need to take anticoagulants (e.g., dabigatran, rivaroxaban, warfarin) or antiplatelets (e.g., acetylsalicylic acid, clopidogrel). The main goal of these medications, known as blood thinners, is to reduce your risk of stroke. In addition to atrial fibrillation, other risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, age (over 75 years), and prior stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or "mini-stroke").

Blood thinners help prevent blood clots from forming in the heart. Blood clots that dislodge and travel to the brain can block the blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke.

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, use our Atrial Fibrillation: Stroke Risk Assessment tool to find out your risk of stroke.

It is important to take your medication exactly as your doctor or pharmacist recommended. Keep in mind that you may not always feel atrial fibrillation symptoms. Do not stop taking your medication without talking first to your doctor. Remember that your medications are also reducing your risk of developing long-term complications associated with atrial fibrillation.

You may experience side effects with medications that thin the blood. Some are mild and may go away as your body gets used to them. Some can be easily managed. Others may last longer and may be bothersome to you. However, do not stop your treatment without talking to your doctor. If you experience any side effects or have any concerns about your treatment, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.