Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) Increases the Risk for Dementia!
Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm known as arrhythmia. Patients with Afib have irregular heart rhythm patterns and may have faster heartbeats. Currently, roughly 2.7 million Americans are living with Afib. Early diagnosis and treatment of Afib is vital as it may cause stroke and heart failure in the long run.
Aside from stroke and heart failure, recently published research studies have shown that Afib can also lead to cognitive decline and dementia. Cognitive impairment and dementia cause considerable distress, not only to patients but also to their caregivers and families.
Dementia is a public health concern worldwide. In the US, for example, more than 500,000 people develop dementia each year. Worldwide, there are approximately 7.7 million new cases of dementia reported each year.
A research study published in 2011 reported that the development of Afib in patients was significantly associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2012, another study published showed that patients with Afib had a 13% increased risk of cognitive decline. Similar studies published since then showing that Afib is an important risk factor for dementia.
How Afib increases the risk for dementia?
One of the possible mechanisms that can link Afib with dementia is the increased risk of strokes in patients diagnosed with Afib. Patients who suffered from stroke have high chances of developing dementia.
Another possible mechanism is through the development of a silent stroke, which Afib is a major risk factor for. When there’s a disruption of blood supply to part of the brain, a silent stroke occurs. But unlike typical strokes, silent strokes can have no diagnosis as they may not present with impairment of speech or movement. In other words, you may have had a stroke, but you did not know that you had it. Silent stroke could then lead to cognitive decline or dementia.
Afib can also damage brain function by causing damage to the heart. Damage to the heart can decrease its performance and reduce the blood supply to pump enough blood to all the parts of the brain. Because of the reduced blood supply, cognitive decline and dementia may develop.
How to prevent dementia in patients with Afib.
In most patients with Afib, medications known as anticoagulants will prevent the formation of blood clots that may lodge in the arteries to the brain. If the clot goes to these arteries, it may block the blood supply, which can cause a stroke. However, anticoagulants prevent this from happening.
Patients with Afib should undergo cardioversion or catheter ablation that will treat Afib. Studies have shown that patients who undergo these processes had improved blood supply to the brain.
The recommendation for patients with Afib to aid in preventing any complications are lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss, a healthy diet, and increased physical activity.
In conclusion, learn more about your risk for dementia and the available treatment options for Afib. Consult an expert Cardiac Electrophysiologist, also known as an EP doctor. Your EP doctor will conduct clinical tests to assess your risk, perform cardioversion or catheter ablation to treat Afib and monitor your health to prevent the development of dementia.
About Dr. Nazeri
Dr. Nazeri offers a TeleHealth program. To easily set up a Vitrual Visit consultation to discuss any concerns you may have about developing Atrial Fibrillation (AFib.) Lastly, for information about cardiac arrhythmia monitoring and atrial fibrillation, please call on 713-909-3166 or visit our website at www.MobitzHeart.com