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Having a fast, irregular heartbeat may increase a person's risk of dementia, a study has suggested.
Atrial fibrillation patients were up to 52 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with the memory-robbing disorder over a seven-year period.
AF - Sufferers - 'mini - Strokes - Blood
AF may cause sufferers to unknowingly suffer 'mini strokes' which alter the blood vessels in their brains, scientists say.
Damaged or blocked vessels may prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching areas of the vital organ, causing brain cells to die.
Time - Person - Memory - Language - Skills
Over time, this could affect a person's memory, thinking or language skills, warned the experts from South Korea.
The research was carried out by Yonsei University, Seoul, and led by Dr Boyoung Joung, an assistant professor in the department of cardiology.
Heartbeat - Risk - Alzheimer - Form - Dementia
'Having an irregular heartbeat specifically raised the risk of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, by 31 per cent,' Dr Joung said.
He added the results - published in the European Heart Journal - showed AF also more than doubled the risk of vascular dementia.
Form - Dementia - Occurs - Condition - Blood
This form of dementia occurs when the condition is brought on by reduced blood flow to the brain.
Dr Joung said: 'This increased risk remained even after we removed those who suffered a stroke from our calculations.
'This - Population - People - Population - Dementia
'This means that, among the general population, an extra 1.4 people per 100 of the population would develop dementia if they were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.'
'However, among people who developed AF and who took oral anticoagulants, the risk of subsequently reduced by 40 per cent,' Dr Joung added.
Evidence - AF - Decline - Occurs
Emerging evidence is increasingly linking AF with cognitive decline, however, why this occurs was unclear.
In the largest study of its kind, the researchers analysed 262,611 people aged over 60 who were not suffering from AF or dementia in 2004.
Co-author - Professor - Gregory - Lip - Chair
Co-author Professor Gregory Lip, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Liverpool, said: 'With these large figures, we...
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