New Study Finds Exercise Improves Memory in Heart Failure Patients

Two-thirds of patients with heart failure have cognitive problems.
Loukia Papadopoulos

New research is revealing that heart failure patients may benefit from exercise. More specifically, they may be able to avoid the cognitive problems associated with the disease. 


Fitter heart failure patients

It is estimated that approximately two-thirds of patients (67%) with heart failure have cognitive problems. Now, a new study is revealing that fitter heart failure patients have healthier brain function avoiding cognitive dysfunction.

 "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," said Study author Professor Ercole Vellone, of the University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Italy.

There are three areas of cognitive abilities that are particularly targeted and damaged in heart failure patients. These are memory, processing speed and executive functions.

"These areas are important for memorizing 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."

Six-minute walk test

The study involved making heart failure patients walk in a six-minute test. The results demonstrated that those who had better fitness, as well as those who were younger and more highly educated, were significantly less likely to have cognitive impairment.

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The study was conducted using data from the HF-Wii study. It enrolled 605 patients with heart failure from six countries with an average age of 67. The study also employed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test to measure cognitive function.

"There is a misconception that patients with heart failure should not exercise. That is clearly not the case. Find an activity you enjoy that you can do regularly. It could be walking, swimming, or any number of activities. There is good evidence that it will improve your health and your memory, and make you feel better," said Professor Vellone.

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