New Study Links Heart Attacks With Accelerated Cognitive Decline

(Illustration – wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

A new study found that people who have had a heart attack may be at risk of an accelerated rate of cognitive aging—equivalent to as much as 6 to 13 years.

The study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, published on May 30 in JAMA Neurology, examined the impact of a heart attack on overall cognitive function, memory, and brain skills known as executive functions—such as the ability to follow multi-step instructions and display self-control.

Researchers found that having a heart attack did not affect those three cognitive measures immediately following the event—rather, it impacted long-term brain health. Cognitive scores of those who had a heart attack accelerated over the next six or so years at a much steeper rate compared to those who did not, with the steepest annual rate of decline seen in older men compared with women.

The researchers analyzed data from six major studies on heart disease and cognition conducted between 1971 and 2019 in the United States. Of the 30,465 people chosen for those studies, none had dementia or experienced a heart attack or stroke before the study began, and all underwent at least one cognitive assessment. The average age of the study participants was 64, of which 56 percent were women.

Out of this sample, 1,033 of the participants had at least one heart attack during the course of the study.

The increase in the annual rate of decline for people who had heart attacks was small, wrote Dr. Eric Smith and Dr. Lisa Silbert in an accompanying editorial. Smith is the medical director of the Cognitive Neurosciences Clinic at the University of Calgary in Alberta, and Silbert is a professor of neurology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine in Portland.

However, “it is possible that accruing subclinical decline over years or decades could eventually impair function or decrease cognitive reserve, making the person more vulnerable to the effects of age-related neurodegenerative pathologies,” Smith and Silbert wrote.

The findings “suggest that prevention of [a heart attack] may be important for long-term brain health,” the authors wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing one death every 33 seconds. Every year, about 805,000 people in the United States have a heart attack.

“Due to the fact that many people are at risk for having a heart attack, we hope that the results of our study will serve as a wake-up call for people to control vascular risk factors like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol as soon as they can since we have shown that having a heart attack increases your risk of decreased cognition and memory later on in life,” said Michelle Johansen, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in a statement.

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is interrupted, usually by a blockage in an artery. This deprives the muscle of oxygen and nutrients and may lead to cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating.

“Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR is performed and a defibrillator shocks the heart and restores a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes,” according to the  American Heart Association.

To reduce the chances of experiencing a further heart attack, the CDC advises people to follow a healthy diet, increase physical activity, stop smoking, manage stress, as well as take their prescribed medications.

CNN Wire contributed to this report.

Important Notice: This article was also published at by Jane Nguyen where all credits are due.


The watching, interacting, and participation of any kind with anything on this page does not constitute or initiate a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Farrah™. None of the statements here have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products of Dr. Farrah™ are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information being provided should only be considered for education and entertainment purposes only. If you feel that anything you see or hear may be of value to you on this page or on any other medium of any kind associated with, showing, or quoting anything relating to Dr. Farrah™ in any way at any time, you are encouraged to and agree to consult with a licensed healthcare professional in your area to discuss it. If you feel that you’re having a healthcare emergency, seek medical attention immediately. The views expressed here are simply either the views and opinions of Dr. Farrah™ or others appearing and are protected under the first amendment.

Dr. Farrah™ is a highly experienced Licensed Medical Doctor certified in evidence-based clinical nutrition, not some enthusiast, formulator, or medium promoting the wild and unrestrained use of nutrition products for health issues without clinical experience and scientific evidence of therapeutic benefit. Dr. Farrah™ has personally and keenly studied everything she recommends, and more importantly, she’s closely observed the reactions and results in a clinical setting countless times over the course of her career involving the treatment of over 150,000 patients.

Dr. Farrah™ promotes evidence-based natural approaches to health, which means integrating her individual scientific and clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise, I refer to the proficiency and judgment that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice.

Dr. Farrah™ does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of any multimedia content provided. Dr. Farrah™ does not warrant the performance, effectiveness, or applicability of any sites listed, linked, or referenced to, in, or by any multimedia content.

To be clear, the multimedia content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any website, video, image, or media of any kind. Dr. Farrah™ hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.