Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm abnormality. Over two million Americans are thought to suffer from this arrhythmia, but many people don’t even know they have it. With this condition, the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly and without much force. This can allow blood to pool and cause clots that could get into the brain and cause a stroke.
Now there is evidence that atrial fibrillation may double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in people under 70. Researchers collected information for more than 37,000 patients for five years. Over 10,000 developed atrial fib during that time and roughly 1,500 developed dementia. Many may have experienced silent mini-strokes that could have affected the brain. Whether aggressive treatment of this heart-rhythm abnormality would reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined.
[Heart Rhythm Society meeting, May, 2009]