Numerous people have the heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation. The quality of the drug treatment plan their doctors have them on may play a role in them developing dementia.
“Specifically, researchers found, patients on the clot-preventing drug warfarin showed a higher dementia risk if their blood levels of the medication were frequently too high or too low,” according to CBS news. That did not only apply to people using warfarin for atrial fibrillation but also to people who were using it for other things.
Dr. Bunch, a cardiologist at Intermountain Medical Center, was the lead researcher on the study. He said the results showed two serious concerns: people with atrial fibrillation may have an increased risk of dementia, and warfarin might contribute to causing dementia. The medicine and the condition affect blood flow to the brain.
How common is atrial fibrillation?
It is a fairly common arrhythmia and it affects around 3 million U.S. adults, according to the Heart Rhythm Society.
What happens in atrial fibrillation?
In this condition the upper chambers of the heart quiver rather than efficiently contracting. Experts say the condition is not immediately life threatening, but it can lead to blood clots to form in the heart. In the event that a clot breaks free and gets into an artery supplying the brain, a stroke can result. Due to this condition, patients with atrial fibrillation often take medications that truncate the threat of blood clots. That medicine includes aspirin or anticoagulants such as warfarin.
The analysis is based on records from over 10,000 patients who were on warfarin for atrial fibrillation or to prevent blood clots from other issues.
Dr. Bunch said that warfarin is a tricky drug to take.
He explained, “People need regular blood tests to make sure their warfarin levels are in the therapeutic range -- high enough to prevent clots, but low enough to avoid internal bleeding. The doses typically have to be changed over time.”
The researchers found that over a period of six to eight years, around 6 percent of the atrial fib patients developed dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, versus fewer than 2 percent of other warfarin patients.
Bunch’s team took into account the fact that atrial fib patients were generally older than others but even after accounting for that afib patients had double the risk of developing dementia.
What are some natural ways of preventing dementia? These ways include: a healthy diet, exercise, and getting high blood pressure under control.
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