According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, patients who score lower on a test of executive function could have a greater risk of heart attack or stroke compared to those who scored higher.

Researchers recruited 3,926 individuals (average age of 75) with a history of heart disease or an increased risk of heart disease from hypertension, diabetes, or smoking for this study; none of the patients had a history of heart attacks, stroke, or dementia. Four tests were administered to assess the participants’ high-level thinking skills, with the results categorized as “low,” “medium,” or “high.” The participants were then followed for an average of three years to evaluate the risk of heart attack and stroke based on test scores.

RELATED: Stroke Tied to Accelerated Cognitive Decline Over Long Term

Participants with the lowest group of executive function thinking skills were 85% more likely to have a heart attack than those in the highest group while those with low scores had a 51% higher risk of stroke.

Lead author Behnam Sabayan, MD, PhD, of Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, acknowledged that although the results of the study were statistically significant, the risks were still small. Even so, worse executive function thinking skills could indicate disease of the brain vascular supply that may predict a higher likelihood of stroke and heart attacks.

For more information visit