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Poorer cognitive function in fit coronary heart disease patients

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Stable coronary heart disease (CHD) patients with good cardiac and respiratory fitness have reduced cognitive functions compared with their healthy counterparts, a new study has found. This suggests that fitness alone cannot prevent cognitive deterioration in CHD patients.

The study included 67 adult patients who were divided into three: fit, stable CHD patients (n=25; mean age 70±8 years), age-matched healthy controls (n=20; mean age 67±6 years), and young healthy controls (n=22; mean age 33±11 years). Those with acute coronary syndromes and uncontrolled hypertension were excluded.

CHD patients (28.1±1.1) scored significantly lower in the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) than both old healthy controls (OHC; 28.7±1.1) and young healthy controls (YHC; 29.2±0.8; p=0.0107 for trend).

The YHC group, followed by the OHC and CHD groups, scored the best in almost all tests such as the Forward Span test (p<0.0001), Digit Symbol Substitution Test (p<0.0001), Stroop 3 and 4 tests (p<0.0001 for both), Immediate Recall test (p<0.0001) and Recognition test (p=0.0008).

While all left prefrontal near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) parameters were similar at baseline and in progress during exercise among all three groups, peak values of changes in oxyhaemoglobin and total haemoglobin were significantly higher in YHC than in CHD and OHC (p<0.01).

The findings show an interaction among exercise, executive cognitive function and cerebral haemodynamics, according to researchers.

“Our data further support the hypothesis that cardiac function plays a role in the normal decline in cognitive function with ageing, and that high fitness alone as a consequence of regular exercise training is insufficient to prevent this decline although it may be slowed,” they added.

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