Accelerated cognitive decline seen after heart attacks: study

A new study has found a rapid decline in global cognition, memory and executive function in those who have had a heart attack compared to those who do not.

In a study published in the JAMA Neurology journal, researchers found people who had at least one or more incidents of myocardial infarction (MI), also known as a heart attack, had a “significantly faster” rate of decline in global cognition, memory and executive function over the years compared to those who did not. The research also found having a heart attack was not associated with an immediate decrease in these functions after the event; rather, it impacted long-term brain health.

The researchers analyzed a pool of more than 30,000 people from six studies based in the United States. Out of this sample, 1,033 individuals suffered from a myocardial infarction event. The median time for a follow-up was 6.4 years after the heart attack.

While the study showed that over time, all the individuals showed an annual decline in cognition, and those who had a heart attack had a “steeper” decline.

“However, after MI, the annual rate of decline accelerated, being steeper than in the same individual before their MI and steeper than in individuals who never had an MI,” the study’s opinion reads. “Interestingly, the long-term slope of the decline changed after MI despite no immediate stepwise drop.”

Researchers also found the rate of decline in global cognition could depend on someone’s race or gender. The research showed a smaller rate of change in global cognition in Black individuals compared to those who were white, and a smaller change in women than in men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 805,000 people in the United States have a heart attack every year.

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