"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Rapid onset of dementia related to atrial fibrillation in women

July 7, 2023 – Women with a standard heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation usually tend to develop dementia, and the severity of their dementia progresses faster in women than in men, a brand new study finds.

One reason for this may occasionally be that girls are at high risk of not having atrial fibrillation diagnosed and will suffer small “silent strokes” that steadily damage their brain, said the lead researcher.

“The symptoms of atrial fibrillation in women are often ignored by doctors or attributed to stress or anxiety, so it often goes undiagnosed. [a] long time, while men tend to be diagnosed and treated quickly,” said study creator and associate professor of nursing at Emory University, Kathryn Wood, PhD, in a opinion. “Failure to diagnose means not receiving oral anticoagulants to prevent blood clots and strokes caused by atrial fibrillation. These women may develop blood clots that travel to small blood vessels in the brain, causing them to gradually lose brain function and develop cognitive impairment.”

The studypublished last month within the Journal of the Alzheimer's Association Alzheimer's and dementiaincluded data from 43,630 people, of whom 4,593 had atrial fibrillation initially of the study and 39,037 didn't. The average age of the study participants was 78.5 years and 46% were women. The researchers checked out whether the people had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, whether or not they had cognitive impairment or the more serious diagnosis of dementia on the time of diagnosis, and in addition how quickly the condition worsened.

Women with atrial fibrillation were thrice more likely than men to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. In women, the chance of progressing from normal cognitive function to mild cognitive function after atrial fibrillation diagnosis was 26% increased, and the chance of progressing from mild cognitive function to dementia was 89% increased. The increased risks were compared with men with atrial fibrillation and compared with men and girls without atrial fibrillation.

According to the CDCAn estimated 12 million people within the United States suffer from atrial fibrillation. Sometimes atrial fibrillation is asymptomatic, but may cause a number of of the next symptoms:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Heart palpitations (fast, fluttering or pounding)
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

People with atrial fibrillation have a five-fold higher risk of stroke. The CDC estimates that one in seven strokes is brought on by atrial fibrillation. The irregular heartbeat implies that blood doesn't flow properly from the upper chambers of the guts to the lower ones. The problems can occur in brief episodes or be constant.

“Developing methods to identify patients with atrial fibrillation who are at highest risk for cognitive decline and stroke will form the basis for future interventions to prevent or slow the progression of cognitive impairment and dementia,” Wood said.