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Study: Atrial Fibrillation Could Show Signs of Early Dementia

admin - September 18, 2013

afib and dementia

The medical community has yet to find a cure for both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, two cognitive disorders that affect more than 5 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As the public waits for a cure, people can take steps to minimize their risk and improve their overall health, particularly in regards to heart disease prevention.

A recent study from the University of Alabama shows a connection between atrial fibrillation, the most common form of abnormal heart rhythm, and earlier onset of dementia symptoms. One theory for the link between the two conditions is that chronic heart conditions affect blood flow in the body, including the brain. When the brain doesn’t get enough blood flow, it reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients the brain receives.

Atrial fibrillation, commonly called AFib, can also cause what is known as “silent strokes.” A silent stroke can cause many of the same symptoms of a full blown stroke such as slurred speech and dizziness but to a lesser degree, according to MedLine Plus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health. AFib makes people more prone to developing clots in their atria leading to these silent mini-strokes that have do significant damage to the brain.

The clear link between AFib and early dementia backs up what the medical community has already found regarding prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Doctors have long promoted heart disease prevention as a way to maintain healthy brain functions.


The Importance of AFib Awareness

Heart disease prevention ensures proper circulation so all organs, especially the brain, receive the oxygen and nutrients they need. Preventing heart disease can also lower a person’s risk for other dementia risk factors like stroke and diabetes.

As the population ages, AFib will likely become a more common ailment. In fact, a recent Reuters article declares that if current trends continue, the number of Americans with atrial fibrillation will more than double in the next 16 years. The Centers for Disease Control predicts as many as 12 million people will have the condition by the year 2050, a significant percentage of the population.

Atrial fibrillation screening from Life Line Screening can help identify the condition early so that fast treatment can be sought. Medication, surgery and lifestyle changes can help treat AFib.

Even though AFib is a problem in the heart, it can impact other areas of the body, including the brain. Healthy lifestyle changes can also impact all areas of the body and lower risk for not just one condition, but multiple conditions. The above is just one example.


1 Comment so far
  1. Patti J. Ryan - September 24, 2013 at 5:50 am

    The thought of dementia lurking in our future usually gets our attention. Untreated A-Fib increases your changes of dementia by about 50%. With the aging of the US “baby boomers” generation, A-Fib awareness becomes more and more important. (A-Fib affects about 1 in 25 people aged 60 and older, and 1 in 10 people aged 80 and older.) To learn more about A-Fib visit our non-profit patient education website: Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients,
    Patti Ryan
    A-Fib, Inc.
    Publisher of ‘Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients’,, and ‘Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure’ by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

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