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Treating Common Irregular Heartbeat Might Also Ward Off Alzheimer's
Date:5/13/2010

Atrial fibrillation affects 1 in 20 people over age 65, experts note,,

THURSDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- By treating the common irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation in a certain way, doctors might also help prevent Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, new research finds.

In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart beat chaotically, causing blood to pool and increasing the potential of clots, stroke, heart failure and death.

Recent research has shown that atrial fibrillation more than doubles the risk of Alzheimer's, especially in relatively younger patients, noted Dr. John D. Day, lead author of two new studies and a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, or heart rhythm specialist, at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

That makes the results of the new study "very exciting," he said. "If we can eliminate atrial fibrillation, we can potentially help to reduce the risk of premature death, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer's disease from atrial fibrillation."

In the study, Day and his team followed about 4,200 patients with a mean age of 65 who were treated with catheter ablation to ease their atrial fibrillation.

In this procedure, a catheter is threaded through a vein in the legs. The abnormal tissue is then cauterized, which cures atrial fibrillation in many people, experts said.

The health of those treated in this way was compared to about 16,800 patents matched by age and gender whose atrial fibrillation had been treated with medications, and about the same number of patients matched by age and gender who did not have the irregular heartbeat.

About 0.2 percent of patients who underwent catheter ablation developed Alzheimer's disease, compared to 0.9 percent of those with atrial fibrillation that was treated with medications.

About 0.4 percent treated with ablation developed other forms of d
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