Survivors of childhood heart defects may have higher risk of premature dementia
Circulation Journal Report
- Children born with heart defects are more likely to survive into old age because of improved early treatments, but they may be more likely to develop early-onset dementia than people born without heart defects.
Embargoed until 4 a.m. CT / 5 a.m. ET Monday, February 12, 2018
DALLAS, February 12, 2018 — People born with heart defects who survive into adulthood may be at higher risk of developing dementia, particularly dementia that starts before 65 years of age, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
With improved newborn and childhood treatments, more people born with heart defects survive into adulthood. A 2016 study published in Circulation estimated that approximately 1.4 million adults are living with congenital heart defects in the United States.
“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 Carina N. Bagge, B.Sc., lead author of the study and a medical student in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark.
Using national medical databases and records covering all Danish hospitals, the researchers examined the occurrence of dementia in 10,632 mostly Caucasian adults (46 percent male) born with heart defects between 1890 and 1982 (most between 1960 and 1982), matching each with 10 members of the general population of the same gender born the same year.
Researchers found the risk of dementia from any cause, including vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and others, in people born with heart defects in Denmark was:
- 60 percent higher overall than the general population;
- 160 percent (2.6 times) higher for early-onset dementia (diagnosed before age 65);
- 30 percent higher for dementia diagnosed after age 65.
The study was observational, which means that the researchers were examining individuals with heart defects over time to see if there was an association between being born with a heart defect and developing dementia later in life. While they did find an association, the study does not mean that every person who was born with a heart defect will develop dementia. The study observed a higher risk, but did not prove cause and effect.
Heart defects are the most common group of birth defects, occurring in 4 to 10 of every 1,000 live births in the United States and 8 to 10 out of every 1,000 live births in Denmark’.
“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.
Dementia or cognitive impairment is often progressive, and can be caused by many factors, including reduced blood flow to the brain, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. People with dementia may have problems with memory, reasoning, behavior and other mental functions.
In this study, the risk of dementia was higher in people born with heart defects who developed other heart disease risk factors later in life, such as atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and diabetes. These risk factors are more common in people born with heart defects than in the general population, and they have also been shown to independently raise the risk of dementia.
“While we must be careful to appreciate these findings within the limitations of the study design, continued study of this association may yield important clinical screening and medical management strategies in the future, and there may even be opportunities discovered to aid in the prevention of dementia in this population,” said Nicolas L. Madsen, M.D., M.P.H., senior author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Co-authors are Victor W. Henderson, M.D., M.S.; Henning B. Laursen, M.D., D.M.Sc.; Kasper Adelborg, M.D., Ph.D.; and Morten Olsen, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
The study was funded by the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital, the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the National Institute on Aging, the Foundation of the Family Kjaersgaard Sunds, the Foundation of 1870, the Foundation of Raimond and Dagmar Ringgaard-Bohn, the Foundation of Torben and Alice Frimodt, the Foundation of the Family Hede-Nielsen, and the Oticon Foundation.
- Available multimedia is on the right column of the release link - https://newsroom.heart.org/news/survivors-of-childhood-heart-defects-may-have-higher-risk-of-premature-dementia?preview=744dec95e60a0d8f32f2ccfa83e6cd56
- After February 12, view the manuscript online.
- Congenital Heart Defects
- Seven Steps To Keep Your Brain Healthy
- Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews
- For updates and new science from the Circulation journal follow @CircAHA
Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
For Media Inquiries and AHA/ASA Spokesperson Perspective: 214-706-1173
Staff Contact: Darcy Spitz: 212-878-5940; email@example.com
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)