Heart failure is a leading cause of mortality worldwide, and survivors often experience declining physical and mental health. Depression and cognitive impairment are the most frequent mental health problems among people with Heart failure. A recent study found that heart failure is associated with a loss of gray matter in the brain and a decline in mental processes.
The Australian study included 35 heart failure patients, 56 patients with ischemic heart disease (IHD), and 64 healthy people. In heart failure, the heart muscle cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body, while in ischemic heart disease the supply of blood to the heart is affected. Researchers conducted memory and other mental performance tests to determine the effects of heart health on gray matter. They used MRI to assess the gray matter volume in different parts of the brain.
Results revealed that patients with heart failure had worse immediate and long-term memory and reaction speeds than healthy people. MRI scans of brain showed that heart failure was associated with losses of gray matter in areas important for memory, reasoning and planning. These changes in heart failure patients make them difficult to remember and perform health care instructions such as taking the correct medications at the right times.
Osvaldo Almeida, director of the research, said that both ischemic heart disease and heart failure are linked with loss of cells in certain brain regions that are important for the modulation of emotions and mental activity; however, the effect is more prominent in heart failure patients than people with ischemic heart disease without heart failure. She also added that people with heart failure and ischemic heart disease show marginal deficits in cognitive abilities than healthy people. However, whether people with heart failure perform worse than those with ischemic heart disease could not be determined.
Patients as well as health care providers should be aware that problems caused by heart disease are not limited to the heart. As people with heart failure may have declining mental health, therefore, treatment plan should be simple and clear.
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