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Exercise may improve memory in heart failure patients

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Group Exercise in gym. Photo: Huffington Post

Two-thirds of patients with heart failure have cognitive problems, according to research presented today at EuroHeartCare 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Heart failure patients who walked further in a six-minute test, which shows better fitness, as well as those who were younger and more highly educated, were significantly less likely to have cognitive impairment. The results suggest that fitter patients have healthier brain function.

Study author Professor Ercole Vellone, of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy, said: “The message for patients with heart failure is to exercise. We don’t have direct evidence yet that physical activity improves cognition in heart failure patients, but we know it improves their quality and length of life. In addition, studies in older adults have shown that exercise is associated with improved cognition – we hope to show the same for heart failure patients in future studies.”

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The cognitive abilities that are particularly damaged in heart failure patients are memory, processing speed (time it takes to understand and react to information), and executive functions (paying attention, planning, setting goals, making decisions, starting tasks).

“These areas are important for memorising healthcare information and having the correct understanding and response to the disease process,” said Professor Vellone. “For example, heart failure patients with mild cognitive impairment may forget to take medicines and may not comprehend that weight gain is an alarming situation that requires prompt intervention.”


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