Heart disease may accelerate cognitive decline

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If you have coronary artery disease, you may be at higher risk for cognitive problems, according to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. People with coronary artery disease have blockages in the arteries that lead to the heart. When blood flow to the heart is slowed or blocked, the result can be a heart attack or the chest pain known as angina.

Study authors looked to see whether this condition had any effect on thinking skills. They selected people with no history of heart disease and followed them for 12 years, administering three cognitive tests throughout the course of the study. Ultimately, 5.6% of people in the study experienced a heart attack or angina. Researchers found that these people were not more likely to have experienced cognitive decline before their heart episode or immediately after, but were at much higher risk for cognitive decline in the years that followed. It's not clear why this occurred, but the study authors say that doctors should be aware of this risk and should monitor people with coronary artery disease carefully.

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