Unsteady heartbeat could mean early dementia
Dementia is becoming more common for people over the age of 65 and for those who have irregular heartbeats, it’s more likely to begin developing sooner, according to research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Scientists found that people who suffer from atrial fibrillation showed signs of mental decline an average of two years earlier than those who didn’t have the condition.
This research was based on an analysis of data from the Cardiovascular Health Study done in the 1990s, which measured heart health and mental testing over a period of seven years. The researchers excluded patients who had suffered a stroke or had a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation prior to the study, leaving them with a pool of about 5,000 people over the age of 65. The results indicated that those who developed the heart condition during the study performed worse on mental tests, with the researchers suspecting that an irregular heart beat causes chronic blood flow problems at the brain, lowering the amount of oxygen and nutrients available. Atrial fibrillation is caused by misfiring electrical signals within the body.
The study found that cognitive test scores fell more significantly among people with the heart condition, to the point that such decline could be reflected in a noticeable difference in everyday life. However, the researchers noted that not all patients with atrial fibrillation have memory problems.