Abnormal Upper Heart Chamber May Boost Dementia Risk - The Jewish Voice
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Abnormal Upper Heart Chamber May Boost Dementia Risk

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By: Steven Reinberg & HealthDayNews.com

If the left upper chamber of your heart doesn’t work properly, do your chances of dementia climb?

Yes, suggests new research that found it may raise the risk by 35%, even in people who have never had a stroke or atrial fibrillation.

The left atrium, one of the heart’s four chambers, transfers blood from the lungs to the left ventricle (lower left chamber), which distributes the blood to the rest of the body. Atrial cardiopathy, an abnormality in the left atrium’s structure or function, is frequently a predictor for heart disease risk. Atrial fibrillation and stroke are both linked to an increased risk of dementia, and atrial cardiopathy is associated with the development of both atrial fibrillation and stroke.

In the study led by Dr. Michelle Johansen, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, researchers tried to determine whether there is a connection between atrial cardiopathy and dementia and, if so, whether it is distinct from atrial fibrillation and stroke.

Data was taken from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which began in 1987, an ongoing investigation into heart health among people residing in four diverse U.S. communities: Minneapolis, Jackson, Miss., Forsyth County, N.C., and Washington County, Md. More than 15,000 participants were originally enrolled and ranged in age from 45 to 65.

All participants underwent clinical visits every three years, and this particular study tracked the participants through their sixth visit, between 2016 and 2017, and their seventh visit, between 2018 and 2019.

Of the 5,952 participants who came back for their fifth clinical visit, 5,078 were included in the analysis; 59% of the participants were female and 41% were male. All had their cognitive function assessed for dementia at their fifth, sixth and seventh clinical visits.

Brief assessments of processing speed, episodic memory, language, attention and executive function were included in the battery of neuropsychological tests. An expert determined a diagnosis of dementia using criteria established by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

To evaluate the size and functionality of the left atrium of the heart, a cardiac evaluation included echocardiography, electrocardiography (EKG/ECG) and blood work.

Over more than 30 years of follow-up, 763 people developed dementia and 1,709 were diagnosed with atrial cardiopathy. Dementia appeared to be 35% more likely to develop in those with atrial cardiopathy.

Even after taking into account other vascular risks and accounting for participants who had atrial fibrillation and stroke, the researchers still found a 31% and 28% increase in dementia risk, respectively, in patients with atrial cardiopathy.

While acknowledging that the results do not confirm a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers stress the significance of reducing the risk of heart disease.

The findings were published Aug. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dementia progresses gradually, so some study participants may have had milder symptoms that were overlooked, and some patients may have passed away before dementia was identified and recorded, the scientists noted in a journal news release.

In other news, HealthDayNews.com reported that swapping salt out for the salt substitute potassium chloride lowers blood pressure, and thereby the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease, a new analysis finds.

“It’s in processed and prepared foods where most people in developed countries get their salt,” explained senior researcher Dr. Bruce Neal, executive director of the George Institute for Global Health in Newtown, Australia.

“What you have to do is go to the people who provide ingredients, and what you do is you say to the suppliers, instead of selling regular salt, use potassium-rich salt, and that way the population will get the benefit,” he added.

By substituting potassium chloride in varying amounts for sodium chloride (regular table salt), you can dramatically reduce people’s blood pressure and their risk for stroke, heart attack and other consequences of high blood pressure, Neal said.

The latest findings build on a large study the same researchers conducted in rural China that demonstrated an impressive reduction in heart attacks and strokes by using a potassium-enriched salt substitute.

But the team wondered if the same results would be seen in other countries and populations, so Neal and his colleagues combined the results of 21 published studies involving nearly 30,000 people. The studies were carried out in Europe, the Western Pacific region, the Americas and Southeast Asia.

The amount of sodium chloride in the salt substitutes varied from 33% to 75% and the amount of potassium chloride ranged from 25% to 65%.


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