(HealthDay News) – Atrial fibrillation is strongly associated with a higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia regardless of stroke history, according to a pooled risk analysis published in the March 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Shadi Kalantarian, MD, MPH, and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, performed a meta-analysis of 21 published studies examining the association between atrial fibrillation and cognitive impairment.

The researchers found that atrial fibrillation was associated with a significantly higher risk of cognitive impairment independent of stroke (relative risk [RR], 1.34), in patients with stroke (RR, 2.7), and in the broader population regardless of stroke history (RR, 1.4). The studies of the broader population showed significant heterogeneity, but restricting the analysis to studies of dementia (which eliminated the heterogeneity) or prospective studies had little effect on the pooled risk.

“Our findings suggest a significant association between atrial fibrillation and cognitive impairment or dementia independent of stroke in patients with first-ever or recurrent stroke and in a broader population including patients with or without a history of stroke,” Kalantarian and colleagues conclude.

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