Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City believe that they have made a breakthrough connection between atrial fibrillation, a fairly common heart rhythm disorder, and Alzheimer's disease, the leading form of dementia among Americans.
In a study presented Friday, May 15, at "Heart Rhythm 2009," the annual scientific sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society in Boston, researchers unveiled findings from the study of more than 37,000 patients that showed a strong relationship between atrial fibrillation and the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The study, which drew upon information from the Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study, a vast database from hundreds of thousands of patients treated at Intermountain Healthcare hospitals, found:
Patients with atrial fibrillation were 44 percent more likely to develop dementia than patients without the heart disorder.
Younger patients with atrial fibrillation were at higher risk of developing all types of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's. Atrial fibrillation patients under age 70 were 130 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's.
Patients who have both atrial fibrillation and dementia were 61 percent more likely to die during the study period than dementia patients without the rhythm problem.
Younger atrial fibrillation patients with dementia may be at higher risk of death than older AF patients with dementia.
Intermountain Medical Center cardiologist T. Jared Bunch, M.D., the study's lead researcher, presented the findings at the scientific session.
"Previous studies have shown that patients with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk for some types of dementia, including vascular dementia. But to our knowledge, this is the first large-population study to clearly show that having atrial fibrillation puts patients at greater risk for developing Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Bunch.
Alzheimer's is a devastating brain
|Contact: Jess Gomez|
Intermountain Medical Center