Heart Failure May Trigger Forgetfulness
Heart failure has been linked to detrimental changes in the brain, says new research published recently in the European Heart Journal. The condition may occur due to ischemic heart disease or high blood pressure, and affects about three percent of all adults.
As heart failure has been linked to depression and cognitive impairment, Professor Osvaldo Almeida of the University of Western Australia, and colleagues investigated whether this is specifically due to the heart failure itself, or one of its causal factors.
They analysed data on 35 heart failure patients, 56 ischemic heart disease patients without heart failure, and 64 healthy people with neither condition. All were aged 45 years or above and had no obvious cognitive impairment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the participants’ brains were assessed.
This is the first study of cognitive changes in heart failure to include patients with ischemic heart disease.
Participants with heart failure had a lower volume of grey matter in many areas of the brain than the other two groups. These patients also had lower scores on short- and long-term memory, had longer reaction speeds, and took longer to complete a reasoning task.
Professor Almeida explains, “What we found in this study is that both ischemic heart disease and heart failure are associated with a loss of cells in certain brain regions that are important for the modulation of emotions and mental activity. Such a loss is more pronounced in people with heart failure. Health professionals and patients need to be aware that problems caused by heart disease are not limited to the heart.”
In their paper, the researchers conclude, “Adults with heart failure have worse immediate and long-term memory and psychomotor speed than controls without ischemic heart disease.”
This could make it more difficult for patients to comply with complicated treatment regimes, they warn, stating, “Our findings are consistent with the possibility that patients with heart failure may have trouble following complex management strategies, and, therefore, treatment messages should be simple and clear.”