ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Traditional Chinese Therapy May Help Ease Eczema
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
A Little Drink May Be Good for Your Bones
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
CANCER
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
U.S. Reported 25,000 Cases of HPV-Related Cancers Annually
CAREGIVING
Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
Children's Bath Products Contain Contaminants
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
DIET, NUTRITION
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Disinfectants Can Boost Bacteria's Resistance to Treatment
Walkable Neighborhoods Keep the Pounds Off
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
EYE CARE, VISION
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
FITNESS
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Brisk Walk Can Help Leave Common Cold Behind
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Go To Work But Skip The Car
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
Proven Strategies for Avoiding Colds and the Flu
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
SENIORS
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
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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