ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
CANCER
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Baby's Sleep Position May Not Affect Severity of Head Flattening
Organ Donation Policies Vary Among Children's Hospitals
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
Compound in Red Wine Fights Ravages of Age
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Short-Term Air Pollution Exposure May Damage DNA
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
EYE CARE, VISION
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
FITNESS
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
After Job Loss, People Report More Health Issues
Dr Churchill & Ashley Pelton Interview 1 of 4
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Too-Low Blood Pressure Can Also Bring Danger
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
Scorpion Anti-Venom Speeds Children's Recovery
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
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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