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People with atrial fibrillation, or afib, a type of irregular heartbeat that is linked with stroke, also may have a greater risk of dementia than those without the condition, according to a study published online Oct. 10, 2018, by Neurology.
Researchers recorded medical data from 2,685 people, average age 73. None of them had dementia and 243 had afib. After nine years, another 279 people developed afib. The researchers found that people with afib showed a faster rate of decline in thinking and memory skills than those without the condition, and were 40% more likely to develop dementia.
It's well known that people with afib can significantly lower their risk of stroke by taking anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners), and the study found that people who took the drugs also had a 60% lower dementia risk. (The researchers found that aspirin did not have the same effect.)
The thinking is that blood thinners stop the formation of small clots that can cause small unnoticed strokes, which could lead to faster cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia.
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