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Published online: 2023-10-16

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Association between cognitive impairment and risk of atrial fibrillation: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study

Yizhou Li12, Yu Jia1, Wenli Jiang13, Dongze Li4, Jing Yu4, Yi Liu4, Xiaoyang Liao1, Zhiwei Zhao5
Pubmed: 37853826


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is reportedly a risk factor for cognitive impairment. Interestingly, recent studies have emphasized that impaired cognition is probably an initiating factor of cardiovascular disease. Thus, we aimed to explore the association between impaired cognition and the risk of AF, and clarify the potential mechanisms. Methods: Participants of visit 2 (1991–1993) in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study were included. Global cognition z-scores and factor scores were calculated using the word fluency, delayed word recall, and digit symbol substitution tests. AF incidents were diagnosed by electrocardiography and inpatient records. The association of cognitive decline with AF risk and left atrial volume index (LAVI) was explored using Cox proportional hazards and linear regression models, respectively. Results: During the median follow-up of 18.2 ± 6.2 years, 2056/11,675 (17.6%) participants developed AF. Participants in the lowest quartile of global cognition z- and factor scores had a higher risk of AF (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.271, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.094–1.477, p = 0.002; HR: 1.305, 95% CI: 1.110–1.535, p = 0.001, respectively) than those in the highest quartile. Global cognition z- and factor scores were negatively correlated with the LAVI (B: –0.411, 95% CI: –0.749 to –0.074, p = 0.017; B: –0.425, 95% CI: –0.833 to –0.017, p = 0.041, respectively). Conclusions: Cognitive decline is significantly associated with a higher risk of AF, with atrial remodeling being a potential mechanism. Our results extend previous findings of the brain-heart axis and indicate the effects of cognitive injury on cardiac function and structure. Registration: URL:; unique identifier: NCT00005131

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