Heart Conditions Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Research has analyzed those subtle changes to blood vessels within the brain, which are common among people with heart conductions, might increase risk of stroke and dementia. Changes of blood vessels which are known as silent brain infarction (SBI) and cerebral small vessel disease – which are detectable with brain imaging are more common among people with atrial fibrillation, heart failure, heart valve disease or in case of a hole in the heart. 

According to doctor’s tiny blood vessels within the brain become narrow and blocked which can prevent blood from reaching certain areas within the brain. As time passes this damage can accumulate and show symptoms of vascular cognitive impairment which might lead to dementia gradually. 

According to the journal Neurology, DBI was detectable in almost one out of three people with heart disease. Two-thirds of the people studied had white matter lesions and the remaining had asymptomatic microbleeds within the brain. In simple terms, doctors say that things that are bad for the heart are bad for the brain so heart conditions contributing to brain damage make sense. SBI is an overlooked cardiovascular health condition, and this disease is not detectable quickly, symptoms are missed in early stages. CSVD is a major cause of vascular dementia, the second leading cause of dementia behind Alzheimer’s disease. 

Often this is overlooked since these patients do not undergo regular brain imaging unless they have suffered a stroke. Some also say that heart medications often make people susceptible to brain bleeds. Aging, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and smoking are also some of the causes of changes to blood vessels in the brain.Gradual decline in cardiac output in some patients with heart disease might affect how blood is reaching the brain tissue which in turn contributes to vascular changes and cognitive decline. 

Even though further studies are needed to find whether routine brain imaging for patients who are undergoing anticoagulation therapy can reduce risks like brain bleeding. The findings suggest that individuals with any heart disease must have a brain scan done routinely.


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