This site is intended for health professionals only

Atrial fibrillation ‘linked with dementia’

By Lilian Anekwe

A UK meta-analysis of 14 research studies has highlighted consistent evidence of a link between abnormal heart rhythms and dementia among stroke patients.

The studies included patients 46,637 patient with an average age of 71.7 years diagnosed with and without atrial fibrillation, who were followed up for subsequent cognitive decline over an average of two years.

Patients with atrial fibrillation were twice as likely to experience dementia, compared with those without atrial fibrillation. Seven studies of patients with stroke showed dementia was 2.4 times more likely in this group.

The researchers did establish a link between abnormal heart rhythms and dementia among the general population, although the association was only of ‘borderline significance.’

Lead author Dr Phyo Kyaw Myint, clinical senior lecturer in ageing and stroke medicine at the University of East Anglia, concluded: ‘There is consistent evidence supporting an association between atrial fibrillation and increased incidence of dementia in patients with stroke whereas there remains considerable uncertainty about any link in the broader population.

‘The potential association between AF and incident dementia in mild cognitive impairment merits further investigation.’

Neurology 2011; 76: 914-922

Atrial fibrillation ‘linked with dementia’