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Research Update: Dementia Linked to Atrial Fibrillation

- Monday, November 21, 2011

As our population ages, people with chronic cardiovascular disease, including atrial fibrillation (or irregular heartbeat), are living longer. In a study reported in the journal Heart Rhythm (Volume 7, page 433) researchers reported that atrial fibrillation may be associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Over 37,000 people, average age 60, from the ongoing Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study database were evaluated for signs of atrial fibrillation and for Alzheimer's disease or vascular, senile or nonspecific dementia. During an average of five years' follow-up, 4 percent developed dementia and 27 percent developed atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation was associated with each of the four types of dementia, independent of other cardiovascular diseases. The youngest group with atrial fibrillation (under age 70) had the highest risk of dementia; dementia is linked to older age, so this finding suggests the relationship between atrial fibrillation and dementia is particularly strong. Atrial fibrillation was also linked with the highest risk of death.

Take away: Because subjects with atrial fibrillation were identified as having higher risks of dementia and death, people with cardiovascular diseases -- who are urged to consider measures like diet, exercise, medication and avoiding tobacco for their heart disease -- might want to take these steps also to prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer's.

All the facts you need to make informed decisions if you have to confront Alzheimer's disease -- the most common cause of dementia

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