Harvard Women's Health Watch

Older women with heart disease more likely to have memory problems

Women with heart disease may need to be more concerned about memory slips and thinking lapses as they age, according to a study published December 18 in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The study included 6,500 women, ages 65 to 79. All of the women had healthy brain function at the start of the study. After an average of eight years of follow-up, women with heart or blood vessel disease were 29% more likely to lose memory and thinking ability than those without heart disease. Women who'd had a heart attack faced twice the risk of mental decline than those with no history of heart attack. Having high blood pressure and diabetes also increased the odds of mental decline. The authors say their study underscores the need for women with heart disease to focus on their brain health too. "Women with heart disease—in particular women who have had a heart attack, bypass surgery, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral vascular disease, or carotid endarterectomy—should be monitored by their doctors for potential cognitive decline," Dr. Bernhard Haring of the University of Würzburg, Germany, said in a statement.

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