Heartbeats may be indicators of dementia

Bryan Aldrige

August 8, 2011

New research has uncovered evidence that there may be a stronger link between dementia and atrial fibrillation (AF) than was once suspected. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that AF is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, and this health issue is often associated with an increased risk of stroke.

Scientists at the Group Health Research Institute recently conducted a study on a group of older adults where the average age was 74 at the beginning of the study. After seven years, participants who had been diagnosed with an AF were 40 to 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with regular heartbeats.

"Before our prospective cohort study, we knew that atrial fibrillation can cause stroke, which can lead to dementia," said Sasha Dublin, the lead researcher. "Now we've learned that atrial fibrillation may increase dementia risk in other, more subtle ways as well."

Older adults who have been diagnosed with heart arrhythmias or dementia can use personal emergency response systems to be able to contact medical help if something unfortunate were to happen.