Heart disease tied to cognitive problems in midlife

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Results of a study in the European Heart Journal indicate an association between heart disease and lower thinking or “cognitive” performance in middle-aged adults.

Using data from the Whitehall II study, Dr. Archana Singh-Manoux, of INSERM, Cedex, France, and colleagues examined the association between heart disease and cognition in 10,308 subjects who were 35 to 55 years of age when the study began in the late 1980s. Heart attacks and other related heart problems were recorded up to 2004, at which point 5837 subjects had completed six cognitive tests.

Men and women who developed heart disease scored lower on a number of cognitive tests, particularly those involving reasoning and vocabulary, than did their peers without heart disease. Moreover, there was evidence, at least in men, that the longer the heart disease was present, the greater the impairment in thinking.

“Our results suggest that even among middle-aged individuals, heart disease is associated with poor cognitive performance with some evidence to suggest a stronger effect among those with longest standing (disease),” Singh-Manoux and colleagues conclude.

However, these findings are unable to answer the question of whether heart disease leads to impaired cognition or vice versa, the authors note.

SOURCE: European Heart Journal, July 23rd online, 2008.