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Study says heart disease can have long-term impact on the brain

The study, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that cognitive test scores, including verbal memory and time orientation, fell faster after patients received such a diagnosis. .
"This study adds to the increasingly abundant literature that shows how the heart and brain work together," said Dr. Neelum T. Aggarwal, Research Director of the Rush Heart Women's Center and Neurologist. cognitive at the Cognitive Cardiology Clinic. She did not participate in the study.

"We are now seeing more problems with cognitive functions related to heart disease, as more and more people are living longer and are undergoing more cardiac and medication interventions," writes Aggarwal in an email.

The authors of the study say that previous research on the issue It is a heterogeneous mixture, often focused on the role of conditions such as stroke and sometimes showing a faster cognitive decline afterwards. But the new study revealed a longer-term impact on the brain. It was followed in adults without stroke for a median of 12 years and with a subgroup of people diagnosed with heart attack or angina pectoris, a kind of pain at the chest resulting from decreased blood flow to the heart.

Patients suffering from a heart attack "had a significantly faster memory decline than those with an angina," noted the authors.

Experts say that cardiovascular diseases affect the brain in many ways. This could have an impact on the small blood vessels and disrupt the flow of oxygen to certain parts of the brain. And the link between the two could come from common risk factors that start earlier in life, such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. The new findings suggest that there could be a gradual process at play affecting the blood flow and the brain, but its functioning is still uncertain, according to a commentary published next to the new study by medical doctors. University of Turku in Finland.
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It is also not known whether there are other external factors. For example, the authors note that they could not exclude the potential impact of medications and other treatments that doctors might prescribe to newly diagnosed patients with heart disease.

"It is sometimes difficult to determine what contributes most to cognitive decline," said Aggarwal, "because people with heart disease have multiple health problems working at the same time.

"Medicines are a huge factor," she added, including when they are taken as prescribed.

Despite the changes in cognitive scores appearing "relatively low," according to the comment, the study authors claim that "even minimal differences in cognitive function can result in a significantly increased risk of dementia over several years." And since there is no cure, they say, finding ways to detect, prevent, and intervene early may be our best option to fix the problem for now.

Aggarwal said the study contained valuable, inspiring messages from his own work at the Cognitive Clinic in Cardiology, where his team is helping patients deal with chronic illnesses that could be detrimental to the health of their patients. brain.

"The first step is to encourage patients to tell their doctor about their memory problems," Aggarwal said. "Often, patients do not talk about it."

She also encouraged doctors and patients to review the drugs and to make sure that they are taken as prescribed, to address other possible causes such as mood and mood. sleep, and talk about lifestyle changes that can have a positive effect on health.

"What's good for your heart is also for your head," said Aggarwal.

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