Johns Hopkins researchers find link between dementia and atrial cardiopathy

Aug. 11, 2022
Older adults with atrial cardiopathy may be at increased risk of developing dementia.

Older adults with atrial cardiopathy (a major, often undetected cardiac cause of stroke) may be at increased risk of developing dementia, according to new research led by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The findings were published August 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers studied 5,078 older adults living in four U.S. communities: Washington County, Maryland; Forsyth County, North Carolina; northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis; and Jackson, Mississippi. The participants did not have dementia when the study began. The researchers sought to determine if there was a difference in the number of people who developed dementia by comparing a group that had markers of left atrial (one chamber of the heart) dysfunction versus those who did not.

In the study, Michelle Johansen, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an attending physician in The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s cerebrovascular division and her colleagues found that the prevalence of atrial cardiopathy among participants was 34%. The mean age of the participants was 75, and 59% were female adults and 21% were Black adults.

Johansen says the team looked at three markers that could be obtained from routine medical tests to measure the function of the left atrium. These include an echocardiogram (a test of the heart action using ultrasound waves to produce a visual display), an electrocardiogram (a record or display of a person’s heartbeat) and a blood marker that determines how the heart functions. Using these three tests, the team established a definition of atrial cardiopathy and then grouped participants into whether they met this definition. 

Johns Hopkins release