Understanding the connection between heart health and brain function
When you live with atrial fibrillation, you may take medication to prevent blood clots and control uncomfortable symptoms. While this can improve your quality of life in the short term, the long-term outlook may be less rosy. That’s because new research shows that AFib symptoms and common treatments could damage the brain, leading to a decline in memory and language skills.
A network of nerves and blood vessels connect these two organs, but the heart and brain can influence each other through a variety of pathways. Some studies have shown an association between AFib and Alzheimer’s disease, which means there could be processes at play that you might not have considered.
The mental decline known as dementia is a frightening reality, but it’s certainly not set in stone. You can help or hinder your body with your lifestyle and treatment choices, but first, you’ll need to understand some of the challenges you could face when you live with AFib.
Stroke risk is a factor
Blood clots leading to stroke are major concerns for anyone living with AFib – they’re also a direct link between heart and brain function. An irregular heartbeat left untreated can cause blood to pool in the heart and clots may form in the pooled blood. If a clot travels to the brain and lodges in a blood vessel, you could experience the classic physical signs of stroke, like blurry vision, slurred speech, and weakness on one side of the body.
Strokes can manifest in different ways. Some strokes come with sudden and pronounced symptoms, while others are silent. These small and quiet strokes can go undetected, affecting cognition in more subtle ways. Over time, that damage can add up, and cognitive changes can become more obvious.