Heart failure linked to memory problems: study

Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:56pm EDT
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By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older patients with heart failure had more memory problems when their heart ailments were advanced, in a new study of adults being evaluated for transplants.

But that wasn't the case in young and middle-aged adults with a type of heart failure marked by a lower-than-normal amount of blood being pumped by the left ventricle.

"As you get older, there's more atrophy" in the brain, said study author Joanne Festa, from St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York. "It could be that particularly in heart failure the brain atrophies at a quicker rate."

The findings tell cardiologists they need to be aware that their patients might be at higher risk of memory problems -- problems that could come into play in their heart treatment, Festa added.

"Memory plays a role in how you manage your health," she said. "Do you remember to take your medication? Keep up with follow-up appointments? Do you remember the symptoms that you have?"

In addition, when memory decline is linked to heart failure, it might come on very slowly, and not be noticed until it's advanced.

Festa and her colleagues collected data from memory tests in 207 heart failure patients who were being evaluated to see if they were candidates for a heart transplant. The researchers split those patients up into 169 that had low scores on a test of heart function and 38 that had a better score.

In general, patients younger than 63 performed similarly on memory tests, regardless of how well exams showed their left ventricle was working.   Continued...