ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
Improved Hip Implants Can Last 20 Years
CANCER
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
CAREGIVING
Hospital Practices Influence Which Moms Will Breast-Feed
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
Mild Flu Season Coming to a Close
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
DIET, NUTRITION
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Most Mt. Everest Deaths Occur Near Summit During Descent
Radiation Exposure Linked to Aggressive Thyroid Cancers
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
EYE CARE, VISION
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
FITNESS
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
New Options Offered for Sleep Apnea
After Job Loss, People Report More Health Issues
Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
Any Old Cane Won't Do
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
Add your Article

Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- The abnormal heartbeat called atrial fibrillation is associated with later development of Alzheimer's disease, a large-scale study finds.

There are three possible explanations for the relationship, each of which could lead to early treatment aimed at preventing the dementia, said study author Dr. T. Jared Bunch, an electrophysiologist at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City. His group was to present the finding Friday in Boston at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting.

The study used data on 37,000 people treated at the 20 hospitals run by Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. It found that people with atrial fibrillation, in which the upper chambers of the heart can quiver uselessly rather than pumping blood, were 44 percent more likely to develop dementia over a five-year period than those without the heart disorder.

The association was especially strong for people under the age of 70. Those with atrial fibrillation were 130 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

And the combination could be lethal. The study found that people with atrial fibrillation and dementia were 61 percent more likely to die during the five-year study period.

Earlier studies have shown that people with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of some forms of dementia, Bunch said. But this was the first large-scale population study to show an association of atrial fibrillation and increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, he said.

"We can't say yet that it is causal," Bunch said of the relationship. "We can say it is related to heightened risk. The next step is to look at the mechanistic association, to understand how one predisposes to the other."

One possibility, he said, is that both problems are related to high blood pressure, which could cause heart function to deteriorate so that blood flow to the brain is reduced, starving brain cells of oxygen. Early and intensive treatment of high blood pressure thus might prevent dementia, Bunch said.

It is also possible that inflammation is the underlying problem in both conditions, he said, since indicators of increased inflammation, such as the molecule C-reactive protein, have been found in both cases. Treatment with statins, which have anti-inflammatory properties, or medications aimed directly at inflammation, could thus be used.

"Finally, multiple studies show the presence of sub-clinical strokes in atrial fibrillation and dementia," Bunch said. "Many small strokes over time can cause the damage."

If that theory proves out, the treatment would be aimed at preventing the blood clots that caused such small strokes, he said. The clot-preventing drug Coumadin now is often prescribed for people with atrial fibrillation, because the condition heightens the risk of clot formation. Other clot-preventing measures could also be used, Bunch said.

All of those preventive treatments would have to be started early, he said. "We're going to begin looking at 50-year-olds," Bunch said.

One question is whether truly aggressive therapy for atrial fibrillation is warranted, said Dr. John Day, director of heart rhythm services at Intermountain, and a member of the research team.

"Unfortunately, for this condition, it takes a number of years to see if it makes a difference," Day said.

One aggressive therapy is catheter ablation, in which a catheter is threaded into the heart to cauterize the area where atrial fibrillation originates, he said.

"We should have a pretty good idea over the next few years whether this works out," Day said. "We have done it with 2,000 patients, and we are following these patients."

More information

Atrial fibrillation, its consequences and treatment, are described by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.



SOURCES: T. Jared Bunch, M.D., electrophysiologist, and John Day, M.D., director, heart rhythm services, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City; May 15, 2009, presentation, Heart Rhythm Society annual meeting, Boston

Last Updated: May 17, 2009

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