New study investigates upstream factors for atrial fibrillation-related dementia and stroke

A new study from Dr. Lin Yee Chen, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Cardiovascular Division at the University of Minnesota Medical School, could clarify whether it is atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) or a large or abnormally functioning left atrium that is the principal driver of poor health outcomes, such as stroke and cognitive decline in patients with A-Fib.

A-Fib, a type of rapid or irregular heartbeat, has long been associated with stroke, brain infarctions, and more recently, linked to dementia and cognitive decline. Dr. Chen's new study, "Left Atrial Abnormality and Atrial Fibrillation-Related Cerebral Infarcts and Cognitive Decline," could change the way medical professionals approach treatment in the future.

"If we find out that you don't need to have A-Fib to be at risk of stroke or cognitive decline, but just need an abnormal left atrium, it means we could start treatment sooner," said Chen. "It could also open up the idea we have to target more upstream to prevent the development of left atrial abnormality in the first place."

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