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Published: 2019-11-26 08:38 | Updated: 2019-11-27 15:20

New thesis about atrial fibrillation and dementia in old age

Hi Mozhu Ding, PhD-student at the Division of Aging Research Center. On December 12 you will defend your thesis ”The role of atrial fibrillation in cognitive aging: A population-based study”, what's the main focus of the thesis?

Portrait of Mozhu Ding
Mozhu Ding, Division of ARC, NVS

Both atrial fibrillation and dementia are age-related diseases that impose enormous burden on the aging societies. My thesis focuses on the occurrence of atrial fibrillation and dementia in old age and the role of atrial fibrillation in brain and cognitive aging among older adults.

Which are the most important results?

First, we found that the incidence of dementia among older adults has declined from the 1980s to 2010s in central Stockholm, Sweden, and improvement in lifestyles, cardiovascular health, and cognitive reserve over the study period could partially explain the decline in dementia risk. Second, independent of clinical stroke, atrial fibrillation is associated with an accelerated cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia, and use of anticoagulant drugs is associated with a 60% decreased risk of dementia among older patients with atrial fibrillation. Finally, regardless of cerebral infarcts, atrial fibrillation is associated with an accelerated increase in white matter lesions and brain atrophy on brain magnetic resonance imaging.

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health?

This doctoral thesis underlines the role of atrial fibrillation as an important risk factor for structural brain abnormalities, accelerated cognitive decline, and dementia in old age. Our findings may help to identify atrial fibrillation patients at risk of cognitive dysfunction and allow for timely initiation of appropriate medical and preventive interventions to reduce the risk of dementia.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research?

Yes, aging research has always been fascinating to me and I would love to devote myself further to the field of cardiovascular and cognitive health in older adults.