IMC study shows link between stroke medications and dementia

MURRAY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah)- A new study by Intermountain Medical Center finds a link between stroke medication and developing dementia.  They say it boils down blood thinning medications that stroke patients use to limit their chances of having another one.  Improper doses for an extended period of time could affect a patient's cognitive skills.  In our continued partnership with Intermountain Medical Center we find out what this means for a growing number of Americans.

"Atrial fibrillation is a fast chaotic rhythm of the upper chambers of the heart," said Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute Dr. Jared Bunch.

A condition that affects about 10% of Americans.

"This chaotic, fast rhythm of the upper chamber of the heart and he would develop an acute dementia and a cognitive decline," said Dr. Bunch.

Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute Dr. Jared Bunch says finding this link gives them more insight about treatment and prevention.

"When somebody is diagnosed with dementia it's already significantly impacted their life," said Dr. Bunch.

People over the age of 60 or people who are overweight or obese are most susceptible to getting atrial fibrillation.  But it's people like endurance athletes on the other end of the spectrum.

"The lower your resting heart rate, the more races you participate in in a year, and the faster you participate. So it's the most fit of the endurance athletes who are at the highest risk," said Dr. Bunch.

At the age of 23, Ashley Irvin had a stroke after spending much of her life training on a soccer field.

"I got this overwhelming feeling of being tired or fatigued and I put my hand on my head and my mom asked does she always do this to my husband and he said no not really.  And that's when I can't remember what happened to me," said stroke patient Ashley Irvin.

Now, Ashley takes medication to reduce her chances of having another stroke.

Warfarin is commonly used to prevent blood clots in atrial fibrillation patients.  However, improperly dosed, that could lead to dementia and other complications.

"You have to have your blood checked at regular intervals to dose it. It interacts with many of the food we take," said Dr. Bunch.

Now that IMC doctors found this link, that will help doctors prevent dementia and extend a patient's life.  While 10% of Americans have the condition, your chances of getting it greatly increases with family history.  That's why IMC's Heart Institute continues its research.

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