A new health study revealed that people who have an irregular, abnormal heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, have an increased risk of developing silent strokes. The silent stroke is a heart condition that shows no symptoms or signs but is known to affect memory and thinking. Recent studies show that atrial fibrillation can lead to a 40% increased risk of mental impairment.
The author of the new study, Dr. Shadi Kalantarian, said that patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of experiencing silent strokes. Dr. Shadi Kalantarian is a resident at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven.
Previous studies show that silent strokes are usually associated with an increased risk of symptomatic stroke and an increased risk of dementia.
Dr. Kalantarian said that:
“The higher prevalence of silent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation may put this population at a higher risk for mental impairment, future stroke and disability.”
According to recent statistics, more than 2.7 American people, especially older people, have atrial fibrillation. This is an electrical disorder known to cause the upper heart chambers to contract quicker and irregularly. Atrial fibrillation can lead to blood pools and coagulations in the heart, which leads to clots, which are one of the main reasons for strokes.
The scientists reviewed 11 previous studies about the link between atrial fibrillation and silent strokes. The 11 studies concerned more than 5,000 patients.
This type of study is called a meta-analysis and scientists try to find patterns to support a medical conclusion. If the scientists find similar patterns or trends in different studies, the conclusions can be stronger than what results from a single study.
Although the studies associated atrial fibrillation with silent strokes, the researchers did not find a cause and effect link between them.
In order to prevent strokes, the patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation need to take medication, usually blood-thinning drugs. Apparently, blood thinning drugs can lower the risks of strokes, and the benefits of these drugs outweigh the potential risk of bleeding.
The medical researchers could not say whether the anticoagulant drugs can prevent silent strokes, as efficiently as they prevent normal strokes.
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