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Atrial Fibrillation Linked to Memory Loss

old woman looks sad and stress

Atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition in which the heart’s two upper chambers beat very fast and irregularly (fibrillate) is a major risk factor for stroke.

In fact, having AF makes a person five times more likely to have a stroke, and about 15 percent of those who suffer strokes also have AF. But stroke isn’t the only consequence of AF; researchers now have linked it to cognitive decline as well.

A study looked at 5,150 men and women with a mean age of 73, who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a community based study of individuals age 65 and over. During an average follow-up of seven years, 10.7 percent developed AF. The researchers used standardized tests that measure cognitive decline as the people aged. They found that those who developed AF declined more rapidly, and some reached levels of cognitive impairment or dementia more quickly than those who did not have the heartbeat irregularity. In one test, an 80-year-old who did not have atrial fibrillation declined by 6.4 points over the next five years compared to 10.3 points for a person with the irregular heartbeat disorder.

AF can develop with aging for non-modifiable reasons, but in some cases, caffeine and alcohol use can bring on the condition, as can the use of NSAIDs. This study shows that it’s important to try to prevent this heartbeat irregularity and also to diagnose and treat it as early as possible.

Thank You for Reading Today’s Article by Dr. Chauncey Crandall

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