- Reviewed by Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
Just as our bodies become less nimble with age, so do our brains. Being more forgetful or taking longer to recall names or events is a normal part of growing older. But sometimes, these cognitive changes occur faster than usual. Now, new research has found that such accelerated cognitive decline may be more common after a heart attack (see "Cognitive changes after a heart attack").
Cognition — the ability to reason and remember — can be assessed in many different ways. The new study considered global (that is, overall) cognition, which encompasses such areas as learning, processing speed, and executive function (the ability to carry out mental tasks such as planning ahead or remembering instructions). Immediately after a heart attack, survivors experienced no apparent cognitive changes. But they showed a faster, persistent drop in global cognition over the following years compared with people who didn't have heart attacks. The decline was equal to about six to 13 years of normal cognitive aging, according to the study authors.
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
About the Reviewer
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
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