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Cardiogenic Dementia: What Is It? How Your Brain Can Be Affected by Heart Disease



Although heart illness is associated with an increased risk of cognitive issues, dementia is typically thought of as a brain disease, according to a study published earlier this year. There is even a term for dementia brought on by heart disease: cardiogenic dementia. Preclinical and clinical investigations are documenting it more frequently, according to researchers.

Cardiogenic dementia can have a detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life if treatment is not received, which emphasizes the significance of early detection and intervention. Experts want you to be aware of the following connections between heart health and brain function.

The Connection Between Your Heart and Brain

Although the link between dementia and heart disease is complicated, scientists have a number of theories as to why cardiovascular health has an impact on cognitive performance.

The heart’s supply of calcium begins to decline in the early stages of heart failure. According to one study, overstimulated calcium channels fail to close properly, which keeps the heart’s cells from receiving enough calcium.2. A deficiency in calcium can either induce or worsen heart issues since calcium particles are essential to the heart’s operation.

Researchers believe that calcium leaks may also contribute to cognitive impairment because the brain contains calcium channels that are comparable to each other. That notion might not be all that crazy: In the previously cited study, calcium leaks caused cognitive impairment in mice with heart failure.

What Role Does Heart Disease Play in Dementia?

Dementia can be brought on by heart disease both directly and indirectly. Heart failure is one clear example.

The brain is an organ that needs enough energy and oxygen to function correctly. Disease-related heart problems “make the heart a less efficient pump, so the brain might not get enough blood, oxygen, and sugar to function normally,” according to Richard Lipton, MD, director of the Einstein Aging Study (EAS) and vice chair of neurology at Einstein and Montefiore Health System, who spoke to Verywell.

Damage from heart disease associated with stroke is another way that the brain can get injured.

“In stroke, brain cells die due to insufficient blood flow,” said Lipton. “Blood clots may form in the heart or in the heart valves. If those clots break off, they can travel to the brain, block blood flow to specific brain regions, leading to death of brain tissue and cognitive problems.”

A neurologist from the Montefiore-Einstein Center for the Aging Brain, Jason Cohen, MD, says that inflammation in the body can also indirectly cause dementia.

Cohen claims that cardiogenic dementia is bidirectional, i.e., heart problems can result from brain disorders and vice versa.

For Whom Is Cardiogenic Dementia At Risk?

The fact that individuals with heart failure or congestive heart failure are among the most at-risk categories for cardiogenic dementia is perhaps not shocking. AFib (atrial fibrillation) patients “have a higher risk of having dementia,” Cohen continued.

Individuals who smoke, use drugs, have sleep apnea, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes are among the other groups of people who are at risk.

Cohen stated, “You have a higher chance of having heart problems if you have high cholesterol.” The accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries caused by that “bad” cholesterol can result in heart disease and decreased blood supply to the brain.

How to Prevent Heart Disease in Your Brain

Preventive measures are essential since brain damage that results in cognitive issues can occasionally be irreversible. You can’t actually “target” your mind with particular interventions, but you can safeguard your heart and brain by adopting certain general health-related precautions.

As heart health eventually impacts cognitive function, neurologist G. Peter Gliebus, MD, medical director of Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s cognitive and behavioral neurology program, advises concentrating on heart health improvement.

According to Lipton, “that means controlling your body weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, smoking, and other factors will promote healthy heart and brain aging.”

Taking the prescribed medication and altering your lifestyle are essential to controlling high blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels and maintaining them within a safe range.


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