Women With Atrial Fibrillation More Likely to Develop Dementia

Our findings imply that women with AF may be at higher risk for MCI and dementia with potentially more rapid disease progression from normal cognition to MCI or dementia than women without AF or men with and without AF.

Researchers used the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center data with 43,630 patients and analyzed sex differences between men and women with AF and their performance on neuropsychological tests and cognitive disease progression.


Higher odds of dementia, MCI in women

According to the paper, AF is associated with higher odds of dementia (odds ratio [OR], 3.00; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.22-7.37) in women and MCI in women (OR, 3.43; 95% CI, 1.55-7.55) compared with men.

Women with AF and normal cognition at baseline had a higher risk of disease progression (hazard ratio [HR], 1.26; 95% CI, 1.06-1.50) from normal to MCI and from MCI to vascular dementia (HR, 3.27; 95% CI, 1.89-5.65) than that of men with AF or men and women without AF.

AF is a major public health problem linked with stroke and heart failure, and is an independent risk factor of increased mortality. It is associated with higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia independent of stroke history.

Cognitive screening for AF patients

The authors wrote that cognitive screening, especially in women, should be part of yearly cardiology visits for patients with AF to help identify early those at highest risk for cognitive disease.

T. Jared Bunch, MD, professor of medicine in the division of cardiovascular medicine at University of Utah in Salt Lake City, said in an interview, "We have learned that how we treat atrial fibrillation can influence risk."

First, he said, outcomes, including brain health, are better when rhythm control approaches are used within the first year of diagnosis.