By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, March 13, 2023 (HealthDay Information) — The frequent irregular heartbeat often called atrial fibrillation (a-fib) might improve the chance of dementia, a brand new examine suggests.
Researchers discovered that folks newly recognized with a-fib had a 13% greater danger of growing dementia, the progressive lack of reminiscence and pondering expertise. The danger was even greater (65%) amongst those that developed a-fib earlier than age 65 and in individuals who didn’t have persistent kidney illness (20%).
“The well being penalties of atrial fibrillation could also be broader than initially acknowledged in sure people,” mentioned lead researcher Dr. Nisha Bansal, a professor of medication on the College of Washington, in Seattle. “A personalised method is required to assist inform sufferers of the results of their atrial fibrillation.”
A-fib is the most typical sort of coronary heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), Bansal mentioned.
“Till now, atrial fibrillation has been strongly linked with the chance of stroke, and the attainable hyperlink with dementia has been unclear,” she mentioned.
A-fib is a speedy, disorganized beating of the guts’s higher chamber. Episodes can come and go, or could also be persistent. It might probably result in blood clots that journey to the mind, inflicting a stroke.
This examine does not show that a-fib causes dementia, solely that there seems to be a hyperlink between the 2. Bansal emphasised that not everybody who has a-fib will develop dementia.
“If atrial fibrillation can be related to dementia, it has vital medical and public well being implications in terms of the administration of sufferers,” Bansal mentioned. “Extra analysis is required to grasp the organic mechanisms that designate this affiliation in addition to whether or not remedy of atrial fibrillation would possibly decrease the chance of dementia.”
For the examine, Bansal and her colleagues collected information on practically 197,000 sufferers from the Kaiser Permanente well being system in California. Half had been just lately recognized with a-fib. They have been in contrast with a like quantity with out the situation.
The researchers took steps to offset the affect of different medical circumstances recognized to extend dementia danger. Bansal, a kidney specialist, mentioned it was a shock to discover a larger danger amongst these with out kidney illness and in youthful sufferers.
Her workforce will attempt subsequent to raised perceive the organic mechanisms linking a-fib and dementia, and the way completely different remedies for irregular heartbeat consider.
It is not recognized why a-fib would possibly trigger dementia, mentioned Dr. Laurence Epstein, system director of electrophysiology at Northwell Well being in Manhasset, N.Y., who reviewed the findings.
“One of many issues that we have at all times struggled with is: What’s the potential cause a-fib results in an elevated danger of dementia?” he mentioned.
Lots of people suppose a-fib might not solely have an effect on the guts however blood vessels all through the physique, which could improve the chance of dementia. “It’s a query this examine doesn’t reply,” he mentioned.
“One factor individuals have thought of, since we all know that a-fib results in an elevated danger of stroke, is might there be subclinical strokes or micro-strokes going to the mind that won’t manifest themselves as a transparent medical stroke however over time, result in dementia?” he advised. “That is one concern we have at all times had.”
It is not clear whether or not a-fib causes dementia or is a marker for different illness processes that improve the chance for dementia, Epstein mentioned.
One of the simplest ways to keep away from growing a-fib is to keep up a traditional weight and blood strain, keep away from sleep apnea, get loads of train and eat a nutritious diet, he suggested.
“Managing these issues aggressively might cut back the incidence of atrial fibrillation,” Epstein mentioned. “However curiously, these are all the identical issues that for those who handle aggressively additionally cut back your danger of dementia.”
He mentioned one other open query is whether or not treating a-fib — by preserving the guts in a traditional (sinus) rhythm — will decrease dementia danger.
Medicines can assist keep a traditional coronary heart rhythm, however they do not work for everyone and might have critical unintended effects, Epstein mentioned.
The opposite choice is ablation, a remedy during which warmth is used to deaden the areas within the coronary heart which can be inflicting a-fib. This may be efficient in the long run however it does not work for everybody, Epstein famous.
The findings have been revealed on-line March 8 within the Journal of the American Coronary heart Affiliation.
For extra on atrial fibrillation, head to the American Coronary heart Affiliation.
SOURCES: Nisha Bansal, MD, professor, medication, College of Washington, Seattle; Laurence Epstein, MD, system director, electrophysiology, Northwell Well being, Manhasset, N.Y.; Journal of the American Coronary heart Affiliation, March 8, 2023, on-line