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Dementia: The symptoms that could play a role in onset of disease, scientists say

John Barnes opens up on his aunt’s dementia on GMB

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One of these factors can affect the nature of the organs within the human body; while it is possible to influence their health, there are some elements which can’t be changed.

Such as the heart as some people are born with inherent defects that leave them exposed to diseases or other conditions throughout their lives.

According to research conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) published in the Journal of the American Heart Association one particular defect could increase someone’s risk of developing dementia, specifically an abnormality in the shape of the heart’s left atrium.

The left atrium is one of two in the heart, its role is to pump blood from the pulmonary veins to the left ventricle which pumps blood to the rest of the body; it is a defect in this area which researchers say could cause problems.

Such is the extent of the potential problem, that researchers say this defect can increase someone’s risk of dementia by up to 35 percent.

The specific name for such a defect is known as atrial cardiopathy, a cardiopathy can often serve as a predictor, also known as a biomarker, for the likelihood of cardiac events such as strokes.

As to why this defect increases the risk of dementia is currently unknown, the researchers say more research is needed into this field in order to better understand why it is the case.

How was the conclusion reached?

The conclusion was established after analysis of more than 15,000 participants beginning in the year 1987; participants were between the ages of 45 and 65-years-old.


Should further research reveal the same provisional result of this study, there could be grounds to add atrial cardiopathy to the list of risk factors for dementia.

What are the other risk factors for dementia?

As research has progressed, so too has understanding of what can increase or decrease the risk of dementia onset.
Alzheimer’s Society lists the current risk factors for dementia as:
• Ageing
• Genes
• Gender and sex
• Cognitive reserve
• Ethnicity
• Health conditions and diseases
• Lifestyle factors.

When lifestyle factors are mentioned, they include level of physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy diet.

However, judging by a recent report by the UK government, it may not just be about lifestyle factors, but where someone lives.

In a landmark report released last month, the government’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants published a review of 70 studies on whether air pollution could increase the risk of dementia.

Their report concluded that air pollution increased the likelihood of cognitive decline and “developing dementia”.

The authors wrote: “The epidemiological evidence reviewed fairly consistently reports associations between chronic exposure to air pollution and reduced global cognition and impairment in visuospatial abilities as well as cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia.”

They added: “Results are heterogeneous as regards to other cognitive domains such as executive function, attention, memory, language and mild cognitive impairment. The identified neuroimaging studies consistently report associations between exposure to air pollution and white matter atrophy.”

However, this isn’t the first-time air pollution has been linked to dementia; it is a link long discussed by charities such as Alzheimer’s Society.

On their website they state: “Air pollution is made up of several different components including gases, chemical compounds, metals and tiny particles known as particulate matter. Long term exposure or exposure to high levels of air pollution can be hazardous, leading to health conditions that affect the lungs and heart.”

With regard to whether air pollution can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, they added: “A growing number of studies looking at exposure to pollution from around the world combined with increasingly sophisticated techniques for seeing fine particulate matter in the brain and body is creating a case for further research.”

What the report from the UK government does is provide significant weight to the link between air pollution and cognitive decline over time.

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