In a new study from Johns Hopkins, researchers found cognitive function declines faster in people who have heart attacks than in those who don’t.
This suggests that preventing heart attacks could help preserve brain health.
The study is one of the first to look at how sudden cardiac events such as heart attacks affect brain function over the short and long term.
In the study, the researchers used data for 31,377 people enrolled in six long-term studies between 1971 and 2017 to analyze what happens to cognitive function in the years following a heart attack.
Study participants were free of dementia and had not had a heart attack when they enrolled in the studies. They were followed for anywhere from about five to 20 years.
Participants were 60 years old, on average, when they took their first cognitive test.
While cognitive function between the groups did not change significantly immediately after a heart attack, the team found it fell faster in the years that followed in those who had heart attacks than it did in those who did not.
The changes occurred in all three areas of cognitive function.
The findings suggest that having a heart attack can be detrimental to brain health over time. Significant change occurs several years after a heart attack.
The team it’s important to know that cognitive decline is a possibility after a heart attack, so physicians are both managing patients’ heart disease and looking for signs of dementia following a heart attack.
It can even be a great conversation starter about why it’s important for patients to follow medical advice to prevent a heart attack.
One way brain and heart health are connected is through shared risk factors, such as lifestyle behaviors and blood pressure control.
Controlling those risk factors needs to become an early and lifelong commitment, because it’s the blood pressure measures when people are in early to midlife – 30s, 40s and 50s – that affects dementia or heart disease, rather than the measures in late adulthood.
If you care about heart attack, please read studies about ideal blood sugar levels for preventing repeat strokes, heart attacks, and antioxidant drug that may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about combo therapy that could cut risk of heart attack and stroke by half, and results showing that broken heart syndrome is on the rise, especially among older women.
The study was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference and was conducted by Dr. Michelle C. Johansen et al.
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