Why women with heart rhythm issues risk memory problems faster than men

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Did you know there’s a link between your heart and your brain? A specific heart condition called atrial fibrillation (AFib) might cause memory problems and even dementia.

What’s more concerning is that women with AFib seem to face these issues faster than men with the same condition.

This is what scientists found out at a big health conference called ACNAP 2023. They also published their findings in a medical journal called Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Women’s Heart Conditions are Often Overlooked

AFib is a heart rhythm problem. It’s not just any problem. It’s the most common one, affecting over 40 million people worldwide.

People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke. And women with AFib have it worse. They have more symptoms and face a higher risk of death.

Yet, women’s AFib symptoms are often not taken seriously. They’re blamed on stress or anxiety. As a result, women’s AFib can go undiagnosed for a long time. This can lead to serious problems.

Why? Because AFib can cause blood clots that lead to strokes. But if AFib is diagnosed, patients can take medication to prevent these clots.

Without a diagnosis, women with AFib miss out on this medication. They might experience small blood clots that cause them to gradually lose brain function and develop memory problems.

This was explained by Dr. Kathryn Wood from Emory University in Atlanta, US, who led the study.

The Inequality in Medical Treatment

Despite the fact that both men and women with AFib are recommended to take blood clot-preventing drugs, women are less likely to receive them.

This lack of medication could lead to silent strokes, where small parts of the brain get damaged without causing noticeable symptoms. Over time, these silent strokes can add up and lead to memory problems.

More About the Study

This study is unique. It’s the first one to use data from multiple centers to study how men and women with AFib end up with memory problems. The researchers looked at data from over 43,000 people, collected since 1984.

Among them, about 11% had AFib, and 46% of the total participants were women. Everyone in the study had to have at least three yearly clinic visits where they took memory tests.

They were then categorized as having normal memory, mild memory problems, or dementia.

The researchers found out that women with AFib were three times more likely to have memory problems and dementia than women without AFib.

Men with AFib were also more likely to have these problems, but the link wasn’t as strong.

In four years of follow-up, 30% of participants moved to a worse stage of memory impairment and 21% developed dementia. Women with AFib were more likely to worsen in their memory problems than women without AFib.

Looking Ahead

Dr. Wood concluded that women with AFib had stronger links to declining memory function than men with the same condition.

It’s important to figure out how to identify AFib patients at the highest risk of memory decline and stroke. This will help develop ways to slow down or even prevent memory problems and dementia.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about heart problems linked to 5 times higher death risk in COVID-19, and this vitamin could prevent muscle damage after a heart attack.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about antioxidant drug that could help prevent heart attacks and strokes, and results showing that drinking coffee this way can help prevent stroke, and heart disease.

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