(HealthDay News) – Heart failure is associated with loss of gray matter (GM) in the brain and worse cognitive function, according to a study published online January 31 in the European Heart Journal.

Osvaldo P. Almeida, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues studied 35 patients with heart failure, 56 with ischemic heart disease (IHD), and 64 healthy controls. Participants were aged 45 years or older and were free of symptomatic cognitive impairment. Statistical Parametric Mapping version 8 was used to investigate regional differences in cerebral GM volume on magnetic resonance images.

The researchers found that, compared with healthy controls, participants with heart failure had lower scores on immediate memory, long delay recall, and digit coding; and those with IHD had lower long delay recall scores. Compared with controls without IHD, participants with heart failure showed evidence of GM loss in the following regions: left cingulate, the right inferior frontal gyrus, the left middle and superior frontal gyri, the right middle temporal lobe, the right and left anterior cingulate, the right middle frontal gyrus, the inferior and pre-central frontal gyri, the right caudate, and occipital-parietal regions involving the left precuneus. Comparing participants with heart failure and IHD, GM loss followed a similar, less extensive, pattern.

“Adults with heart failure have worse immediate and long-term memory and psychomotor speed than controls without IHD. Heart failure is associated with changes in brain regions that are important for demanding cognitive and emotional processing,” the authors write.

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