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Patients Using Blood Thinners For Atrial Fibrillation Have Higher Chance Of Developing Dementia

First Posted: Nov 17, 2016 04:40 AM EST
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Experts have identified a number of factors that can increase the risk of dementia. In a new study, it has recently been found that individuals with atrial fibrillation who take anticoagulants are more likely to suffer from dementia than those who take blood-thinning drugs for different reasons.

Medical Xpress has recently reported that a new study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, who use warfarin to prevent harmful blood clots from forming in their hearts and eventually lowering the risk of stroke, are more at risk of developing dementia than patients who use warfarin for non-atrial fibrillation conditions.

Experts say that atrial fibrillation is a condition where an individual suffers from an abnormal heart rhythm. It also raises the risk of small clots to form in the heart, which can later lead to a stroke. Warfarin is the most common anticoagulant drug used worldwide to lower risk of the harmful clots from forming and causing a stroke.

For the study, researchers at Intermountain Heart Institute looked at more than 6,000 patients who did not have a previous history of dementia and were having chronic coagulation problems. These patients are also using warfarin for any indication, not just atrial fibrillation. The patients were divided into two groups: those with atrial fibrillation who were using warfarin and those using warfarin who did not have atrial fibrillation.

After considering multiple variations, it was revealed that patients with atrial fibrillation were two to three times more likely to develop dementia compared to the patients who were on warfarin without any diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, reported Medical News Today.

"Atrial fibrillation patients are at higher risk of developing all forms of dementia compared to patients without atrial fibrillation. Warfarin is used to lower risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, but when the blood levels of the drug are erratic it contributes to the dementia risk. This dementia risk is observed in people with and without atrial fibrillation that are exposed to long-term warfarin treatment," said Jared Bunch, MD, lead author of the study and director of electrophysiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City.

"Even when we consider the influence of warfarin on dementia risk, the presence of atrial fibrillation conveys an additional risk of dementia. This suggests that the way we manage the abnormal heart rhythm, beyond just the practice of preventing blood clots through warfarin, may be a way we can further lower the risk of all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, in patients with atrial fibrillation," Dr. Bunch added.

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