Cognitive impairment linked to worse heart failure outcomes

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Heart failure is an endemic disease affecting 250,000 Swedes.

Despite new treatments such as modern medicines and defibrillators, the mortality rate is still high and the prognosis worse than for certain cancers.

In a new study, researchers found a link between cognitive impairment and an increased risk for early death in heart failure patients.

The research was conducted by a team at Lund University in Sweden and elsewhere.

Cognitive ability refers to, for example, memory, the ability to orient oneself in time and place, problem-solving, and the use of numbers and language.

The study looked at 281 patients of whom 80 demonstrated cognitive impairment in the tests. However, only four of them were previously aware that their cognitive ability was impaired.

The patients were asked to complete three different cognitive tests within the framework for the study.

The team found that patients who performed worse on the tests were at an increased risk of early death.

It could be that this patient group has a reduced ability to comply with evidence-based treatment recommendations — particularly if they are unaware of their cognitive impairment.

It has also not been studied how heart failure patients would react to being screened for cognitive function and then receive cognitive support in their heart failure treatment.

The researchers want to look at these further. If their hypothesis is correct, it could mean that this patient group can be offered greater support in their cognitive ability, which in turn can be a simple way to save more lives.

One author of the study is Martin Magnusson, a consultant in cardiology at Skåne University Hospital and adjunct professor at Lund University.

The study is published in ESC Heart Failure.

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