According to a new study, people with abnormalities in the heart’s left atrium may have a higher risk of developing dementia later in life by 35%. This risk was found in people with or without symptoms, including those who did not have atrial fibrillation or stroke, two conditions known to be associated with dementia.
The heart’s left atrium is responsible for receiving blood from the lungs and pumping it into the left ventricle, which then pumps the blood throughout the rest of the body. Previous studies have found an abnormality in the functioning or structure of the left artery can signal a person’s cardiac risk. This condition, known as atrial cardiopathy, is associated with an increased risk of stroke and atrial fibrillation, which are both associated with a heightened risk of dementia.
This new study highlighted the need to better understand the relationship between a state of atrial dysfunction that may not be presenting symptoms and the association with dementia.
The study included more than 15,000 people who were originally recruited for the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. All participants attended clinical visits every three years, and health records such as hospital record abstraction, ECG tracings, physician and coroner questionnaires, and death certificate data were analyzed. Researchers believe this information has led to discoveries and guidelines surrounding atherosclerosis, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and cognitive decline.
The analysis of the health data found that over the 30 years of follow-up, 763 people developed dementia, and 1,709 had atrial cardiopathy. The participants with atrial cardiopathy appeared to be 35% more likely to develop dementia. When the findings were adjusted for participants who experienced atrial fibrillation and stroke, they still found a respective 31% and 28% increase in dementia risk in patients with atrial cardiopathy.
These findings suggest that a state of atrial cardiopathy that leads to dementia is not entirely a result of atrial fibrillation or stroke alone. Researchers believe these results
emphasize the importance of lowering vascular and heart disease risks.
More research is needed to evaluate the possibility of silent strokes or asymptomatic atrial fibrillation that may be missed in clinical trials.
Brain and Heart Health
Some degree of cognitive decline is nearly inevitable as you age. However, as this study shows, numerous other factors can take a toll on the ability of the brain to function at peak potential. This can affect memory, concentration, and overall brain function.
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