Atrial Fibrillation Linked to the Development of Several Types of Dementia

Atrial fibrillation is independently associated with the risk for all forms of dementia, particularly in patients younger than 70.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is independently associated with the risk of all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s and other senile and vascular dementia types, according to a new study from the Heart Rhythm Society.

Patients who were impacted by both conditions developed AF first, or in conjunction with dementia. In addition, patients in the youngest age bracket of the study — less than 70 years old — were found to have the greatest risk of dementia, and they were also at the most increased risk of mortality.

“While age remains the strongest risk factor for dementia, our study shows the highest risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementia types was most prominent in the youngest AF patient group,” said lead author T. Jared Bunch, MD, Intermountain Heart Rhythm Specialist, Intermountain Medical Center, Murray, UT. “This finding is significant in establishing the association between dementia and AF and could potentially help clinicians monitor patients more closely for signs of dementia and mortality risks.”

The Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study database evaluated 37,025 patients between 60 and 90 years old over a period of five years. All patients had been to a cardiologist because of the development of AF and different types of dementia, including vascular, senile, Alzheimer’s, and other, non-specified types. Over the five-year period, 10,161 patients (27 percent) developed AF and 1,535 (4.1 percent) developed dementia.

Writing in Heart Rhythm, the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, the authors conclude: “AF was independently associated with all forms of dementia. Although dementia is strongly associated with aging, the highest risk of AD was in the younger group, in support of the observed association. The presence of AF also identified dementia patients at high risk of death.”