A study published Wednesday in Neurology confirmed that atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), a heart condition which affects thousands of people, is increasing their risk of developing dementia, as well. A team of researchers from Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University published the study, which may have also revealed some useful preventative measures for keeping dementia away.
Medical News Today explains that A-Fib is a condition caused by the irregular beat of a heart chamber, causing blood to pool within an atrial chamber. The sitting blood can eventually clot and travel to the brain, putting patients at risk for stroke. But, how does this affect the dementia aspect of the question? Scientists have already found links between the relation of dementia and heart conditions, but this newest study showed very convincing results.
“Compromised blood flow caused by atrial fibrillation may affect the brain in a number of ways,” as study co-author Chengxuan Qiu explains.
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The scientists from Europe put together a serious study to find out. They collected data from 2,685 people, who they followed for six years. The average age of the participants was 73, and they were interviewed and given routine medical exams. Interestingly enough, scientists found that their study group of patients with A-Fib developed dementia at a higher rate than those in the non-A-Fib group. Those with A-Fib tended to gain dementia more rapidly than those with otherwise healthy bodies, states Medical News Today.
These findings suggest that A-Fib could be a contributing factor to dementia. The cause is still unknown, and remember, this is a correlative observation. If someone develops dementia, there is no way to say whether A-Fib is the cause or only a factor instead. Qui also points out that aging is the common factor that increases the risk for both atrial fibrillation and onset dementia.
“We know [that] as people age, the chance of developing atrial fibrillation increases, as does the chance of developing dementia,” said Qui further.
Ironically, though the A-Fib patients seem to carry a higher risk for dementia, the meds they take for their heart may counteract dementia as well. The study also revealed that A-Fib patients who took blood thinners were 60 percent less likely to develop dementia. But the only medicines that showed this effect were blood thinners specifically, not antiplatelet drugs, which some patients use to break up clots in the arteries. An author of the study, Chengxuan Qui, gives a little more explanation.
“…we estimated that about 54 percent of the dementia cases would have been hypothetically prevented if all of the people with atrial fibrillation had been taking blood thinners.”
In other words, Qui believes that there would have been 54 percent fewer dementia cases in the outcome is all A-Fib patients had taken their blood thinner medication. That’s a huge claim that the new report seems to be making. Hopefully, the research from this study can be put to good use in the treatment of A-Fib patients and general elderly people.