Heart Defects In Childhood Linked To Dementia In Seniors
Heart defects in childhood may link to increased risk of developing dementia by age 65, according to a recent Danish study.
Heart Defects: Study Results
Compared to people born with normal hearts, adult survivors of childhood heart defects were more than twice as likely to develop so-called early-onset dementia by age 65, the current study found. These survivors were also 30 percent more likely to develop dementia after 65.
The dementia risk increased with the severity of heart defects. Mild to moderate defects were associated with 50 percent greater likelihood of dementia, while the odds were doubled with severe defects.
Congenital heart disease can include structural malformations like a hole in the heart, leaky valves and defective vessels. These are among the more common birth defects, occurring in up to 1 in 100 live births.
For the current study, researchers examined 10,632 cases of dementia diagnosed in Danish adults born with heart defects, mostly after 1960. They matched each of these patients with 10 people of the same sex born in the same year who didn’t have heart defects.
The most common type of heart defects were so-called atrial septal defects, a hole in the wall between the heart’s upper chambers, which accounted for 26 percent of the cases. Ventricular septal defects, or a hole in the wall between the lower chambers, accounted for 22 percent of cases.
Overall, 4 percent of the people in the study developed dementia by age 80.
By 80 years of age, 60 percent of the people with heart defects had died, compared with 35 percent of individuals born without these problems.
These results add to growing evidence that heart problems can also affect the brain. Congenital heart disease that leads to decreased function of the heart could lead to decreased blood flow to the brain, strokes and other vascular diseases.
This includes maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and avoiding cigarettes. In addition, make sure to check and control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. A healthy diet should include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish. Limit soda, sugary treats and red meat.