Simple heart scans may be able to predict your risk of being diagnosed of dementia within a decade, a study suggests.
Researchers found elderly people with abnormalities in their left atrium were a third more likely to develop the disease — even if they showed no sign of heart problems.
The left atrium helps pump oxygenated blood to vital organs, including the brain. If the chamber is faulty, it can reduce blood flow to the brain — a risk for dementia.
Atrial cardiopathy is the term for a variety of conditions that can cause the left atrium not to work properly.
It can lead to strokes and an irregular heartbeat, two complications that have also been linked with dementia.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at 5,078 adults who didn’t have dementia from North Carolina, Maryland and Mississippi. They had an average age of 75 at the start of the study.
Writing in the paper, the researchers said: “We found that the presence of atrial cardiopathy was significantly associated with an increased risk of dementia.
“We found that both [atrial fibrillation] and stroke mediated some of the effect between atrial cardiopathy and dementia, but that the relative contributions was [less than] 10 per cent.
“These findings reveal that a state of atrial cardiopathy, which precedes [atrial fibrillation] and stroke, contributes to the risk of dementia, independent of [atrial fibrillation] and stroke.
“We cautiously suggest that an understanding of this relationship might provide a basis for new interventional strategies to help thwart the development of dementia.”
– Mail Online