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Abnormal Heart Rhythm Linked to Alzheimer's
Date:4/16/2010

Cardiovascular disease appears to be a major risk factor for dementia, expert says

FRIDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- People with atrial fibrillation, a form of abnormal heart rhythm, are more likely than others to develop dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, a new study finds.

The presence of atrial fibrillation also predicted higher death rates in dementia patients, especially among younger patients in the group studied, meaning under the age of 70.

"This leaves us with the finding that atrial fibrillation, independent of everything else, is a risk factor [for dementia]," said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "This is adding one more brick in the road toward understanding that cardiovascular disease is a major risk factor for dementia."

"Alzheimer's disease, in particular, is one where we don't quite understand the risk factors and what causes it, so studies [like this] that try to investigate the causative effect will help us understand that and ultimately design therapies and approaches to prevent or minimize disease," added Dr. Jared Bunch, lead author of a study appearing in the April edition of the HeartRhythm Journal and a cardiologist/ electrophysiologist with Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah.

This study, however, was not specifically set up to establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

The authors looked at 37,025 patients without atrial fibrillation or dementia, aged 60 to 90, over a five-year period.

Individuals who developed atrial fibrillation had a higher risk of all types of dementia, even when other risk factors were taken into account. Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common form of dementia.

More surprising was that those in the younger group -- under age 70 -- who had atrial fibrillation had the highest risk of developing dementia, even though d
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