How is the likelihood of dementia increased?
Many people in the world have dementia. Researchers have now found that various diseases can significantly increase the risk of developing dementia. If, for example, patients with atrial fibrillation are additionally diagnosed with a carotid artery disease, this leads to a greatly increased likelihood of developing dementia.
In their current investigation, scientists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City found that people with atrial fibrillation and diseases of the carotid artery have a significantly increased risk of dementia. The doctors published the results of their current study at this year's Heart Rhythm Society’s 39th annual Scientific Sessions in Boston.
Impaired blood circulation has severe consequences
Blockages in the carotid artery, which gradually build up with age, prevent blood flow to the brain. A combination with atrial fibrillation and the resulting influence on blood circulation significantly increase the likelihood that those affected will develop dementia, the experts explain.
What are risk factors for atrial fibrillation?
Earlier research has shown that the abnormal heart rhythms of atrial fibrillation cause inconsistent blood flow to the brain, which contributes to the appearance of dementia or a decrease in cognitive function, the doctors say. The risk factors for atrial fibrillation and so-called carotid artery disease are relatively similar and include age, weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Smoking can also increase the risk, the scientists add.
Relationships between atrial fibrillation and dementia were examined
The research team examined the relationships between atrial fibrillation and dementia. The new data found underlines the continuing need for doctors and patients to closely monitor and examine diseases of the carotid artery as well as atrial fibrillation. This applies in particular to patients who have an increased risk of one of the two diseases, according to study author Dr. Victoria Jacobs of the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in a press release.
People over the age of 60 are particularly often affected
The carotid artery disease, which is caused by plaque in the artery that leads from the brain to the heart, is newly diagnosed in more than 200,000 patients each year, the authors say. However, the disease is usually asymptomatic until sufferers have a stroke. The largest age group of people affected are people over the age of 60.
What happens to atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia in the world. It affects more than 2.7 million American adults alone, the experts say. The abnormal heart rhythm causes blood to collect in the heart and clump there. If these blood clots are released, a stroke can result.
6,786 subjects took part in the study
For their current study, the researchers examined a total of 6,786 patients with carotid artery disease without a history of dementia. They compared the data from a group of subjects who were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation with the data from a group who had not received such a diagnosis. The average age of the patients was 71.6 years and 55.6 percent of them were male. Twenty-one percent of them suffered from atrial fibrillation, the scientists add.
The diseases are treatable
How can the study results help patients reduce dementia? Dr. Jacobs says early attention and diagnosis are key. Atrial fibrillation and carotid artery diseases are treatable, and treating these diseases early can reduce the risk of dementia, explains Dr. Jacobs. Doctors should discuss treatment options with at-risk patients. The education could help those affected to lead a healthy life. Those affected should know about their risks and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the experts advise. Both diseases should not simply be accepted passively, as both are treatable and treatment is particularly important, as it can prevent or delay dementia, the scientists add.
More research is needed
The researchers will now continue to analyze the data and compare it with different groups. This is to determine which patterns can exist when identifying the individual risk for the development of dementia. (as)