Irregular heartbeat strong predictor of decline in people at risk of heart disease

February 27, 2012, Canadian Medical Association Journal

An irregular heartbeat -- atrial fibrillation -- is a strong predictor of cognitive decline and the loss of independence in daily activities in older people at risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Researchers sought to understand whether there was an association between an and the loss of mental and in people at risk of cardiovascular disease. They looked at data from two : the ONTARGET and TRANSCEND trials, which involved 31 506 patients from 733 centres in 40 countries.

Participants were aged 55 years or older, with cardiovascular disease or diabetes and some organ damage from the disease.

The results of previous studies on the link between atrial fibrillation and cognitive decline have been inconsistent, and few of the studies have looked at the relationship with ability to function independently.

The researchers of the study in assessed cognitive function at the outset, after two years and at the second-last appointment using the mini–mental state examination (MMSE) to determine whether there had been decline, onset of dementia or functional decline. The MMSE uses a point system to measure a variety of cognitive functions such as attention and calculation, recall, naming and repetition, and reading and comprehension.

"The composite outcome of a decrease in MMSE score by three or more points, dementia, admission to a long-term care facility and loss of independence in performing activities of daily living occurred in 7269 (26%) patients without atrial fibrillation and in 1050 (34%) patients with atrial fibrillation (baseline and follow-up)," writes Dr. Koon Teo, Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, with coauthors.

"Our study provides prospective evidence that atrial fibrillation increases the risk of and dementia, independent of clinically overt stroke and baseline cognitive function," write the authors. "We also saw a significant association between atrial fibrillation and functional decline (loss of independence with activities of daily living) and the need for long-term care."

"Our findings highlight the need to include cognitive and functional measures in clinical trials of patients with atrial fibrillation," they conclude.

Explore further: Atrial arrhythmias detected by pacemakers increase risk of stroke

More information: Paper online: www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.111173

Related Stories

Atrial arrhythmias detected by pacemakers increase risk of stroke

January 11, 2012
An irregular heartbeat that you don't even feel but can be picked up by a pacemaker is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, says a new McMaster University study.

Common irregular heartbeat raises risk of dementia

August 8, 2011
The most common kind of chronically irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, is associated with a greater risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. This discovery by scientists at Group Health Research Institute ...

Atrial fibrillation associated with increased risk of death and cardiovascular events in women

May 24, 2011
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have found that among women who are mostly healthy, those diagnosed with atrial fibrillation have an increased risk of death when compared to women without atrial fibrillation. ...

BUSM: Severe sepsis, new-onset AF associated with increased risk of hospital stroke, death

November 13, 2011
A recent study led by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) shows an increased risk of stroke and mortality among patients diagnosed with severe sepsis and new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF) during hospitalization.

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.