Congenital heart defects linked to increased risk of dementia

February 13, 2018, American Heart Association
Congenital heart defects linked to increased risk of dementia
Credit: American Heart Association

Being born with a heart defect may raise the odds of later developing dementia, especially early-onset dementia, a new study finds.

Each year, at least 40,000 infants in the United States are affected by a . The cause is unknown, but it's thought that genetics plays a role in some cases.

Throughout their lives, children born with a heart are at risk of experiencing an array of health issues. These range from being below normal weight to heart-specific problems that not only make exercise difficult but, in severe cases, can increase their risk of having heart failure or a serious infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves.

Many of these health problems are known risk factors for —changes in the brain that cause memory and other cognitive problems that interfere with daily life.

"Congenital heart disease is a lifelong condition," said the study's senior author Dr. Nicolas L. Madsen, medical director of inpatient cardiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "We think that dementia may be a natural extension of the neurodevelopmental concerns of childhood into the adult years."

In the study, published Monday in Circulation, researchers used Denmark's national medical registries to identify 10,632 adults diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. They compared dementia diagnoses between those adults and adults of the same sex and age in the general population.

By age 80, 4 percent of adults with congenital heart disease had been diagnosed with dementia. This was a 60 percent higher risk than what was seen in the . Those born with a heart defect were also 2.6 times more likely to develop dementia before age 65.

An estimated 1 million children and 1.4 million adults in the United States were born with a congenital heart defect.

"We're only now seeing CHD patients reach older adulthood," said cardiologist Dr. Fred Wu, who is seeing more noncardiac diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, among his patients in the Adult Congenital Heart Service at Boston Children's Hospital. Wu was not involved in the new study.

"This [study] opens our eyes to the problem we know very little about: how to prevent dementia and cognitive deficits," said Wu, who co-authored the American Heart Association's 2017 scientific statement on complications in adults with . "Questions, however, remain as to what is the underlying cause of the risk and how can we mitigate it."

Roughly 50 million people worldwide have dementia. In the United States, Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in older , affecting 5.5 million Americans and ranking as the nation's No. 6 cause of death.

It is not known whether the new findings are applicable to children born today with a heart defect who benefit from improved medical care.

"The care received by the group we studied at 60, 70 and 80 years old isn't the same today, so we don't know if the congenital defect population today would show the same risk," said Madsen.

Explore further: Survivors of childhood heart defects may have higher risk of premature dementia

More information: Carina N. Bagge et al. Risk of Dementia in Adults With Congenital Heart Disease: Population-Based Cohort Study, Circulation (2018). DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.029686

Related Stories

Survivors of childhood heart defects may have higher risk of premature dementia

February 12, 2018
People born with heart defects who survive into adulthood may be at higher risk of developing dementia, particularly dementia that starts before 65 years of age, according to new research in the American Heart Association's ...

Adults born with heart disease at increased risk of heart attack and death

November 9, 2015
A study of adults up to age 70 shows a dramatically increased risk of heart attack in those who were born with heart disease.

Children with heart disease are being let down by lack of clinical trials, study finds

November 22, 2017
Less than one per cent of UK children born with congenital heart disease are enrolled in clinical trials looking to improve treatments, research funded by the British Heart Foundation and led by the University of Birmingham ...

Increasing number of US adults living with congenital heart defects

July 5, 2016
More adults are living with congenital heart defects in the United States, creating the need for more health services and tracking systems to collect data across all ages, not just at birth, according to new research in the ...

Adults born with heart defects have a substantially higher risk of stroke

November 23, 2015
Adults with congenital heart defects have substantially higher rates of stroke compared to the general population, according to research published in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation.

Kids with heart defects face learning challenges, inadequate school support

February 22, 2017
Children with all types of congenital heart defects face learning challenges in elementary school, but many may not be receiving adequate education assistance, according to a new study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality ...

Recommended for you

Genetic analysis links obesity with diabetes, coronary artery disease

November 16, 2018
A Cleveland Clinic genetic analysis has found that obesity itself, not just the adverse health effects associated with it, significantly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. The paper was published ...

Non-coding genetic variant could improve key vascular functions

November 15, 2018
Atherosclerotic disease, the slow and silent hardening and narrowing of the arteries, is a leading cause of mortality worldwide. It is responsible for more than 15 million deaths each year, including an estimated 610,000 ...

Study of two tribes sheds light on role of Western-influenced diet in blood pressure

November 14, 2018
A South American tribe living in near-total isolation with no Western dietary influences showed no increase in average blood pressure from age one to age 60, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

Heart failure patients shouldn't stop meds even if condition improves: study

November 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—There's bad news for heart failure patients with dilated cardiomyopathy who'd like to stop taking their meds.

Bypass beats stents for diabetics with heart trouble: study

November 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—People with both diabetes and multiple clogged heart arteries live longer if they undergo bypass surgery rather than have their blood vessels reopened with stents, according to follow-up results from a landmark ...

New treatment significantly reduces cardiovascular events when combined with statins

November 12, 2018
Statins are the most commonly used treatment for cardiovascular disease. Despite reducing certain risk factors, if triglyceride levels remain high with use of statins, there is still a significant risk for heart attack, stroke ...

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.