Atrial fibrillation, a common condition in which the heart beats irregularly, more than doubles the risk of “silent strokes” that result in memory loss and thinking disability over time, a new study shows.
Atrial fibrillation (AF), affects more than 2.7 million people in the U.S., most of them elderly. It’s known that AF hikes the risk of symptomatic stroke, the type that causes paralysis and other disability, but the heart condition's effect on silent stroke is more difficult to track.
Symptomatic strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is stopped, resulting in major symptoms of disability and even death.
“Silent strokes,” on the other hand, are brief interruptions of blood flow that cause no obvious symptoms and can be detected only by brain scans. Over time they impair memory and other brain functions, studies have found.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital reviewed 11 previously published reports that looked at the association between AF and silent strokes in about 5,000 patients.
Using brain imaging tests, they found that AF more than doubled the risk for silent strokes, according to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
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