Research

Is atrial fibrillation connected to dementia?

Recent research proposes that atrial fibrillation is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart has an irregular beat. This information, however, also specifies a possible preventive approach, researchers show.

A new research paper was published in the journal Neurology. Research was conducted at the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University in Sweden. Researchers describe that atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia.

In A-fib, the heart’s atria — that receive blood and then send it to the ventricles, which pump it out to the other body parts — beat irregularly. Because of this, blood can pool in the heart thus forming clots, which may later circulate to the brain. It can lead to a stroke.

The new research has found that atrial fibrillation also increases the risk of another major health problem as people age — i.e., dementia. However, this threat also comes with a hopeful solution, the authors describe. “Compromised flow of blood caused by atrial fibrillation may disturb the brain in several ways,” as study co-author Chengxuan Qiu explains.

“We know that as people age, the risk of developing atrial fibrillation rises. As does the risk of developing dementia,” Qiu states, adding: “Our study showed a strong link between these two. And found that using blood thinners may surely decrease the chance of dementia.”

A-fib is linked with the faster mental decline

In the new research, the researchers examined data from 2,685 participants with an average age of 73. All of the participants were followed for an average period of 6 years.

The research interrogated each individual. And directed a medicinal exam at standard and then again after 6 years for participants younger than 78, or once every 3 years in the case of participants older than 78 at the start of the research.

Not any of these volunteers had dementia at baseline. However, 9 percent of all the participants (243 individuals) had been identified with A-fib. Over the continuation period, 11 percent of the total volunteers (279 individuals) developed A-fib. And 15 percent of the group (399 individuals) received a diagnosis of dementia.

After evaluating the data, the scientists discovered that the reasoning function — comprising memory and thinking capacity — of participants with A-fib inclined to decline more rapidly than people with fit cardiovascular systems.

Similarly, individuals with A-fib had a 40 percent greater chance of developing dementia when compared with their healthy lords. Throughout the course of the research, 10 percent (278 individuals) were diagnosed with dementia from the 2,163 members without A-fib. As for the 522 participants with A-fib, 23 percent (121 individuals) developed dementia.

Blood thinners may neutralize risk

However, the team also observed that individuals with A-fib who took blood thinners for the prevention of blood clot really had a 60 percent lesser risk of developing dementia, than those who did not take this treatment.

Of the 342 individuals who did not take blood thinners, 76 people developed dementia. While among the 128 individuals who took blood thinners, only 14 people developed the neurodegenerative disorder.

The researchers also note that volunteers who took antiplatelet drugs did not have a lower risk of dementia. This drug prevents clots from forming in the arteries.

“Supposing that there was a cause-and-effect link between use of blood thinners and the reduced chance of dementia,” explains Qiu, “we assessed that nearly 54 percent of the dementia cases would have been hypothetically prevented if all of the persons with A-fib had been using blood thinners.” “Further efforts should be made to improve the use of blood thinners among older persons with the A-fib researcher advice.

The investigators, however, disclose that their research faced some limitations, like the fact that it did not differentiate among different subtypes of A-fib, or that some volunteers with A-fib may not have been accordingly diagnosed due to lack of symptoms.

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