Cognitive issues may be associated with heart failure

Jasmine Phu

February 1, 2012

If you notice any of these signs, it's time to talk with your loved one's doctor.More than 5.8 million Americans suffer from heart failure, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute reports. In order to help patients deal with their conditions, scientists continue to work to find cures and causes behind the medical problem.

A new study from researchers at the University of Western Australia has found that heart failure may be related to cognitive problems and more gray matter in sufferers' brains.

To test this, the scientists recruited 35 people with heart failure, 56 people with ischemic heard disease (a condition commonly associated with heart failure) and 64 heart healthy people. Each person took part in cognitive tests and underwent an MRI to help researchers look at gray volume in certain regions of their brains.

Findings show that people with heart failure had worse short and long-term memory and were also slower in reaction speeds over the healthy patients. Heart failure participants also had more gray matter build-up in regions of the brain that control "cognitive and emotional processing."

The data may prompt more doctors to reconsider how they work with heart failure patients, as these individuals might not be able to remember certain steps of their treatment.

Elders living alone with a heart condition may have a hard time reaching for a phone if they suffer a problem. It might be helpful for such people to install senior alert systems in their homes as these wearable devices give a person the means to call for help in a second.