Atrial fibrillation and risk of dementia: a prospective cohort study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Aug;59(8):1369-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03508.x. Epub 2011 Aug 1.


Objectives: To determine whether atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with risk of incident dementia or Alzheimer's disease (AD), beyond its effect on stroke.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: An integrated healthcare delivery system.

Participants: A population-based sample of 3,045 community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older without dementia or clinical stroke followed from 1994 to 2008.

Measurements: AF was identified from health plan electronic data using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes from inpatient and outpatient encounters. Covariates came from self-report, study measures, and health plan data. Participants were screened every 2 years using the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (range 0-100), with detailed neuropsychological and clinical assessment of those scoring less than 86. A multidisciplinary consensus committee determined diagnoses of all-cause dementia and possible or probable AD using standard research criteria.

Results: AF was present in 132 (4.3%) participants at baseline and was diagnosed in 370 (12.2%) more over a mean of 6.8 years of follow-up; 572 participants (18.8%) developed dementia (449 with AD). The adjusted hazard ratio associated with AF was 1.38 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.10-1.73) for all-cause dementia and 1.50 (95% CI=1.16-1.94) for possible or probable AD. Results were similar for participants with and without clinically recognized stroke during follow-up and in sensitivity analyses examining only probable AD.

Conclusion: AF is associated with higher risk of developing AD and dementia. Future studies should examine whether specific treatments, including optimal anticoagulation, can decrease this risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Washington