Irregular heartbeat linked to earlier mental decline

People with the most common type of irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation (AF), lose mental ability faster than those without the condition, even if they haven't had a stroke, according to a study published online June 5 in the journal Neurology. The study followed more than 5,000 adults, ages 65 and older, for seven years. Participants did not have AF or a history of stroke at the start of the study. (AF increases stroke risk.)

Researchers found that people who developed AF had faster declines in scores on tests of memory and thinking, and they reached the cutoff score for dementia two years earlier (age 85 versus 87) than people without the irregular heart rhythm.

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