Aging Parents, Atrial Fibrillation, and Dementia

New research, published last week in the April 2010 edition of the journal Heart Rhythm, reports an association between atrial fibrillation and all types of dementia. The article, Atrial Fibrillation Is Independently Associated with Senile, Vascular, and Alzheimer’s Dementia (abstract and full text available), describes the study, which included 37,025 patients already a part of the Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study database.

If you think a parent has atrial fibrillation (Mayo Clinic description) or if you believe you have the condition, which the research says is the most common arrhythmia encountered in medical practice, and also a significant risk factor for stroke, go to a doctor. Persist in seeking answers until you are satisfied that the fluttering or other strange heartbeats are treated appropriately. Our one regret with my husband’s mother is that we did not try harder to pursue the appropriate rhythm management after mother’s doctor did not ever hear the irregular heartbeats and thus did not treat it (after a 24-hour heart monitor did not find anything unusual). But the condition was there, Mother had been recording each event in her diary, and the night of her stroke, the emergency department physicians diagnosed her condition. From that point on Mother’s dementia accelerated.

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