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Blood pressure control reduces dementia risk in mid-life patients with atrial fibrillation

First study of its kind to show this benefit in these patients

Atrial Fibrillation
European Heart Rhythm Association

Lisbon, Portugal – 18 March 2019: Dementia risk in mid-life patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, according to a study1 presented today at EHRA 2019, a congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Study author Dr Daehoon Kim said that AF patients in their 50s and 60s can benefit from lowering their systolic blood pressure (SBP) to 120-129 mmHg, as compared to those with continuously high SBP over 140mmHg.

“It was surprising. We all know that AF is associated with higher risk of dementia, but there was no certain way to protect against AF-associated dementia,” explained Dr Kim, a cardiologist at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Republic of Korea. “With this study, we found one potential way to help mid-life patients minimise their risk by as much as 15%,” he said.

AF patients with hypertension and taking at least one antihypertensive medication at the time of AF diagnosis between 2005-2016 were enrolled in the Korean nationwide cohort study. Among those with uncontrolled SBP over 140mmHg at initial AF diagnosis, the risk of dementia was compared according to their follow-up SBP control status (<120mmHg/120~129mmHg/130~139mmHg/≥140mmHg) in multivariable Cox models.

Follow-up analysis of SBP and risk of dementia was calculated from the date of follow-up blood pressure measurement to the date of dementia, death, or December 31, 2016 (end of study period), whichever came earliest. The mean follow-up duration was 5.0 years.

AF, the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia in the general elderly population, increases stroke risk by a factor of four to five times that of the general population. It has also been associated with cognitive impairment and dementia, even in patients without a prior diagnosed stroke.

Previous studies have suggested that hypertension in mid-life increases the risk of dementia in later life, leading it to be included as a probable risk factor in dementia prevention guidelines.2

“However, observational studies that suggested midlife high blood pressure is a risk factor for late-life cognitive impairment and dementia did not assess the effect of blood pressure change over time on dementia risk,” Dr Kim pointed out. “Also, there has been a lack of data about the association of blood pressure control with risk of dementia in patients with AF.”

This study found that lowering blood pressure in patients over 70 years old may not have as big of an impact on dementia risk.

“Strict blood pressure control in midlife can help to prevent atrial fibrillation-associated dementia,” Dr Kim asserted. “However, in those who have entered into later life (over 70 years old), blood pressure control might be of little help.”

Study authors used the Korean national health insurance service database to measure blood pressure in 196,388 patients over 50 years newly diagnosed with AF, dividing them into age groups 50-59, 60-69, 70-79 and over 80 years old.

Blood pressure control <130mmHG was shown to lower the dementia risk with similar benefits for patients aged 50-59 and 60-69 with initially uncontrolled blood pressure at the time of AF diagnosis.

“Proper anticoagulation and early cardiovascular risk factor modification, including high blood pressure and prevention of hypoglycaemia in diabetes patients, likely play an important role in reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation-associated dementia,” Dr Kim concluded.


Notes to editor

 Authors: ESC Press Office
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Sources of funding: This study was supported by a research grant from the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (NRF-2017R1A2B3003303), and grants from the Korean Healthcare Technology R&D project funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare (HI16C0058, HI15C1200).


Disclosures: None.

References and notes

1The abstract, “Optimal blood pressure control for lowering dementia risk in patients with atrial fibrillation: nationwide data covering the entire Korean population,” will be presented as a Moderated ePoster on Monday 18 March at 15:35 to 16:25 WET (GMT) in the Poster Area.

2European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA)/ Heart Rhythm Society (HRS)/Asia Pacific Heart Rhythm Society (APHRS)/Latin American Heart Rhythm Society (LAHRS) expert consensus on arrhythmias and cognitive function: what is the best practice? Europace (2018) 20, 1399–1400

About the European Heart Rhythm Association

The European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) is a branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Its aim is improving the quality of life and reducing sudden cardiac death by limiting the impact of heart rhythm disturbances. EHRA ensures the dissemination of knowledge and standard setting; provides continuous education, training and certification to physicians and allied professionals involved in the field of cardiac arrhythmias with a special focus on Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Electrophysiology (EP). EHRA releases international consensus documents and position papers, it is a source of high quality, unbiased, evidence based, scientific information that promotes the quality of care for patients with AF, and for, has also dedicated a website for patients “”.

About the EHRA Congress

EHRA 2019 is the annual congress of the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.


Information for journalists attending EHRA 2019

EHRA 2019 will be held 17 to 19 March at the Lisbon Congress Centre (CCL) in Lisbon, Portugal. Explore the scientific programme.

  • To register on-site please bring a valid press card or appropriate letter of assignment with proof of three recent published articles (cardiology or health-related or referring to a previous ESC Event).
  • Press registration is not available to industry or its public relations representatives, event management, marketing or communications representatives.