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To tell how your brain is going to fare in the next few years, check your pulse. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have found that the way your heart beats offers important information about your brain health.
If you have the kind of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, it isn’t only your heart that’s suffering; your brain may also be running into trouble.
“Problems with memory and thinking are common for people as they get older. Our study shows that on average, problems with memory and thinking may start earlier or get worse more quickly in people who have atrial fibrillation,” says researcher Evan L. Thacker. “This means that heart health is an important factor related to brain health.”
The study involved people age 65 and older from four communities in the United States who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study. Of the 5,150 participants, 552, or about 11 percent, developed atrial fibrillation during the study.
The study showed that people with atrial fibrillation were more likely to have lower memory and thinking scores at younger ages than those without atrial fibrillation. From age 80 to age 85 the average score on the 100-point test went down by about 6 points for people without atrial fibrillation, but it went down by about 10 points for people with atrial fibrillation.