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10 August 2015 10:52
A link has been drawn between poor brain functioning and heart attack risks
Older people with poor thinking skills may face a higher risk of heart attack or stroke, research suggests.
The study, which monitored the progress of almost 4,000 individuals with an average age of 75 for a period of three years, speculates that heart and brain functions are more closely related than appearances make out.
Lead author Dr Behnam Sabayan, from Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, says the findings emphasise that assessments of cognitive function should be part of the evaluation of future cardiovascular risk.
Participants had their high-level thinking skills evaluated by a series of tests at the beginning of the study.
They were then divided into groups.
Members of the lowest test score group were found to be 85% more likely to have a heart attack and 51% more likely to have a stroke than those in the highest group.
Lower scores on thinking tests indicated worse brain functioning.
A total of 375 heart attacks and 155 strokes were recorded during the research.
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Dr Sabayan says worse brain functioning, in particular in executive functions, could reflect disease of the brain vascular supply, something which in turn would predict - as it did in the study - a higher likelihood of stroke.
He adds low test scores also predicted a greater risk of heart attacks because blood vessel disease in the brain is closely related to blood vessel disease in the heart.
But while the results are statistically significant, he acknowledges that the risks are small.
The findings are published online in the journal Neurology.
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