Heart Defects May Raise Odds for Dementia

Heart Defects May Raise Odds for Dementia

If you were born with a heart defect, you might have to worry more about developing dementia as you age, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 10,600 people in Denmark born with a heart defect between 1890 and 1982.

Compared with the general population, adults born with heart defects during that time period had a 60 percent overall higher risk of dementia, a 160 percent higher risk of early onset dementia (before age 65), and a 30 percent higher risk of dementia diagnosis after age 65.

"Previous studies showed that people born with heart defects have a higher risk of neurodevelopmental problems in childhood, such as epilepsy and autism, but this is, to our knowledge, the first study to examine the potential for dementia later in adult life," said study author Carina Bagge. She is a medical student in the department of clinical epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital, in Denmark.

The study was published Feb. 12 in the journal Circulation.

"Our study involved an older population born when treatments for heart defects were more limited. Modern treatment has improved greatly, and as a result we can't directly generalize these results to children born today. We need further work to understand the risks in the modern era," Bagge said in a journal news release.

Heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, occurring in four to 10 of every 1,000 live births in the United States. With improved treatments, more people born with heart defects now survive into adulthood, the study authors noted.

While the study found a higher risk of dementia among adults born with heart defects, the results did not prove that heart defects cause dementia, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heart birth defects.


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