‘Hearts and minds’: association, causation and implication of cognitive impairment in heart failure

Cannon, J. A., McMurray, J. J.V. and Quinn, T. J. (2015) ‘Hearts and minds’: association, causation and implication of cognitive impairment in heart failure. Alzheimer's Research and Therapy, 7, 22. (doi: 10.1186/s13195-015-0106-5) (PMID:25722749) (PMCID:PMC4342092)


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The clinical syndrome of heart failure is one of the leading causes of hospitalisation and mortality in older adults. An association between cognitive impairment and heart failure is well described but our understanding of the relationship between the two conditions remains limited. In this review we provide a synthesis of available evidence, focussing on epidemiology, the potential pathogenesis, and treatment implications of cognitive decline in heart failure. Most evidence available relates to heart failure with reduced ejection fraction and the syndromes of chronic cognitive decline or dementia. These conditions are only part of a complex heart failure-cognition paradigm. Associations between cognition and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and between acute delirium and heart failure also seem evident and where data are available we will discuss these syndromes. Many questions remain unanswered regarding heart failure and cognition. Much of the observational evidence on the association is confounded by study design, comorbidity and insensitive cognitive assessment tools. If a causal link exists, there are several potential pathophysiological explanations. Plausible underlying mechanisms relating to cerebral hypoperfusion or occult cerebrovascular disease have been described and it seems likely that these may coexist and exert synergistic effects. Despite the prevalence of the two conditions, when cognitive impairment coexists with heart failure there is no specific guidance on treatment. Institution of evidence-based heart failure therapies that reduce mortality and hospitalisations seems intuitive and there is no signal that these interventions have an adverse effect on cognition. However, cognitive impairment will present a further barrier to the often complex medication self-management that is required in contemporary heart failure treatment.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cannon, Dr Jane and McMurray, Professor John and Quinn, Dr Terry
Authors: Cannon, J. A., McMurray, J. J.V., and Quinn, T. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences
Journal Name:Alzheimer's Research and Therapy
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1758-9193
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy 7:22
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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