Researchers have discovered a link between heart failure (HF) and a decline in people’s mental processes and loss of grey matter in the brain.

A team of researchers at the Western Australia Institute for Health and Ageing found that patients with heart failure have a harder time with memory and reaction time than their peers. Researchers also found that the mental decline experienced by those patients made it more difficult for heart patients to remember to take certain medications or carry out medical instruction.

Study findings were published in the journal European Heart Health.

“Our results are consistent with the observation that people with HF have trouble adhering to complex self-care advice, and suggest that simpler approaches to self-management may be required,” said the study authors.

Osvaldo Almeida, professor, and Director of Research at the Western Australia Institute for Health and Ageing in Pert, along with his colleagues, gave cognitive function tests to 35 patients with heart failure; 56 patients with ischaemic heart disease, which doesn’t always accompany heart failure; and 64 health people without heart failur or ischaemic heart disease. Patients were also given MRI tests to assess difference in the volume of grey matter various regions of the brain.

Results showed that those with heart failure, had poorer immediate and long-term memory and reaction speeds than the healthy subjects. It was also noticed that heart failure is linked to changes in brain regions that are essential for certain cognitive functions.

“What we found in this study is that both IHD and HF are associated with a loss of cells in certain brain regions that are important for the modulation of emotions and mental activity, such as loss is more pronounced in people with HF, but can also be seen in people with IHD with HF,” said Almeida, in a statement.

“Similarly, people with IHD and HF show subtle deficits in cognitive abilities compared with control without either IHD or HF, and again those deficits are more pronounced in people with HF. ”

The areas of the brain that showed a lack of grey matter, are directly linked to reasoning, memory and planning.

“There is evidence that they optimize performance in complex tasks that require mental effort. Consequently, loss of brain cells in these regions may affect a person’s performance in a number of different areas, such as memory, behavior modification, inhibition, both emotional and cognitive, and organization,” said Almeida.

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