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Coronary Disease Dulls Cognitive Skills
Date:7/23/2008

Large study found the longer person had heart trouble, the worse their performance

WEDNESDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- Men and women suffering from coronary heart disease seem to fare worse on measures of cognitive function.

And the longer the person had had heart disease, the worse the performance in such mental processes as reasoning, vocabulary and verbal fluency, according to a study in the July 23 issue of the European Heart Journal.

The research, however, had some limitations that may affect its value.

"It's a very well-designed study with a very large number of individuals, so they were able to appreciate small differences in cognitive function," said Dr. Kathryn J. Kotrla, chairwoman of psychiatry and behavioral science for the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. "But they didn't control for some key variables such as alcohol and tobacco, which are well-known to impact blood vessel disease. Also depression, which is linked to both coronary heart disease and cognitive functioning."

"This makes the study tantalizing but incomplete," Kotrla added.

Previous studies have given conflicting results regarding the relationship between heart disease and cognitive function. Some have found coronary heart disease (CHD) to be a risk factor, while others have not.

According to the researchers, from University Hospital London and INSERM in France, this is the first large study to look at the association. And, previously, research had focused more on cerebrovascular disease (which includes stroke) rather than just CHD, even though CHD is responsible for most cardiovascular disease. That prior research had found a strong relationship between cerebrovascular disease and cognitive deficit and dementia.

The researchers looked at almost 6,000 British civil servants, aged 35 to 55 at the beginning of the project, taking part in a long-term study.

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