Danish researchers studied 314,911 heart attack patients and compared them with 1,573,193 controls who had not had a heart attack. They excluded anyone who had already been diagnosed with dementia or other memory disorders. The study in Circulation, adjusted for heart failure, pulmonary disease, head trauma, kidney disease and many other variables.
During 35 years of follow-up, there were 3,615 cases of Alzheimer’s disease, 2,034 cases of vascular dementia and 5,627 cases of other dementias among the heart attack patients.
Heart attack increases the risk for vascular dementia, the type caused by impaired blood flow to the brain, by 35 percent.
There are several possible reasons for the link, including similar underlying causes for dementia and heart attack — among them, hypertension, stroke and having undergone coronary artery bypass surgery.
“Dementia can’t be cured,” said the lead author, Dr. Jens Sundboll, a resident in cardiology at Aarhus University in Denmark. “What’s the solution? Prevention. And for prevention we have to identify risk factors. Here we’ve identified an important one.”