Simple heart scans may be able to predict your risk of being diagnosed dementia within a decade, a study suggests.
Researchers found elderly people with abnormalities in their left atrium were a third more likely to develop the disease — even if they showed no sign of heart problems.
It suggests scans normally only used for people with suspected heart disease or heart attack patients could help identify who is at highest risk of dementia.
Atrial cardiopathy is the term for a variety of conditions that can cause the left atrium not to work properly.
But the study of more than 5,000 American adults in their 70s concluded atrial cardiopathy was an 'independent risk factor'.
Researchers found elderly people with abnormalities in their left atrium are 35 per cent more likely to suffer with dementia.
Around 900,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in the UK, with rates expected to increase with an ageing population. .
In total, 763 people had the brain disorder by 2019 - with those with atrial cardiopathy at a 35 per cent increased risk
Writing in the paper, the researchers said: 'We found that the presence of atrial cardiopathy was significantly associated with an increased risk of dementia
'We found that both [atrial fibrillation] and stroke mediated some of the effect between atrial cardiopathy and dementia, but that the relative contributions was [less than] 10 per cent.
'These findings reveal that a state of atrial cardiopathy, which precedes [atrial fibrillation] and stroke, contributes to the risk of dementia, independent of [atrial fibrillation] and stroke.