June 17 (UPI) -- Having a cardiovascular episode may affect the brain as well as the body, new findings show.
Nearly 6 percent of people who suffered a heart attack or angina experienced cognitive decline after the event, according to a study published Monday in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"Even small differences in cognitive function can result in an increased risk of dementia in the long term," said Wuxiang Xie, a research fellow at the Imperial College School of Public Health and study lead author, in a news release. "Because there is no current cure for dementia, early detection and intervention are essential to delay the progression to dementia. Heart attack and angina patients need careful monitoring in the years following a diagnosis."
Coronary heart disease is the buildup of too much cholesterol and fat, which can block the heart from getting blood or oxygen, leading to angina or heart attack.
The study included information on nearly 8,000 patients older than age 50 who never experienced angina, a heart attack or stroke, or had a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. The researchers focused on data between 2002 and 2017.
The researchers tested the patients on memory, oral ability and time recognition.
Throughout the course of the study, people who developed coronary heart disease had significant cognitive decline. People who suffered angina had problems orienting themselves with time, while those who had heart attacks went through verbal declines.
The results show poor cardiovascular health may harm the neural and vascular tissues in the brain, according to Suvi P. Rovio, who wrote an editorial on the study.
"This study provides evidence on the role of incident coronary heart disease as a possible factor bending the course of cognitive decline trajectory in older age," Xie said. "While primordial and primary prevention would be the most optimal outlooks to postpose clinical cognitive impairment, it is crucial to identify specific at-risk populations for targeted secondary and tertiary prevention."