Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senior Focus: Atrial Fibrillation Can Cloud the Brain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senior Focus: Atrial Fibrillation Can Cloud the Brain

Article excerpt

Atrial fibrillation is more than a heart disease.

The heart's most common rhythm abnormality also can take a toll on the brain placing people at risk of developing memory and cognitive problems.

Atrial fibrillation is a quivering of the heart resulting in an irregular heartbeat that may not be strong enough to deliver an adequate amount of oxygen to the brain. The condition, caused by an electrical abnormality of the pacemaker in the right atrium of the heart, is a common cause of stroke and doubles a person's risk of dying.

About a quarter of adults older than 40 will develop atrial fibrillation at some point in their lives.

Combined data on more than 31,000 people who participated in two studies shows atrial fibrillation increased the likelihood that they would develop dementia, difficulties with memory and problems caring for themselves. Those who had atrial fibrillation were more likely to be admitted to a nursing home.

Those who have atrial fibrillation also have a smaller brain than those who do not. Particularly, they have small brain hippocampal volumes, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Most studies show that those who have atrial fibrillation but do not take a medication to thin their blood (anticoagulant) are at increased risk of developing problems with thinking. …

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