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Neurol Res. 2006 Sep;28(6):588-94.

Congestive heart failure and Alzheimer's disease.

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Unit of Cognitive Frailty, Neurology Outpatient Clinic Dr. Nelles, Cologne, Germany.


The increase in average life expectancy is resulting in an increasing prevalence of major invalidating illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic, progressive disease representing the advanced stage of cardiac illnesses. Cognitive impairment is known to be a frequent feature of CHF patients. The epidemiologic pictures of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Alzheimer's disease (AD) and CHF are predicted to worsen with the demographic expansion of the elderly population. Nevertheless, there has been little structured research on cognitive impairment in patients with CHF. This is unfortunate not only because CHF is the leading cause of hospitalization in the elderly and a leading cause of disability and death, but also for important clinical and socioeconomic implications including those related to comorbidity in advanced age and the need to early detect factors which may precipitate the conversion of MCI to AD. In this review, several aspects of the role of CHF in cognitive impairment are evaluated. Owing to the lack of studies focusing on CHF in AD, the pathophysiology of cardiac failure in cognitive impairment is addressed in light of possible preventive strategies against the onset of AD. These include prevention of oxygen radical and peroxynitrite production, supplementation of nitric oxide (NO) donors, as well as the achievement of an adequate antioxidant supply, better if obtained with a targeted and individualized nutritional approach. A systematic neuropsychologic testing of older patients with heart failure is to identify those with early cognitive impairment and promptly establish traditional therapies such as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, digoxin or beta-blockers. The neuropsychologic assessment in CHF patients is also fundamental to disclose conditions potentially favoring the onset of cognitive impairment such as depression. Finally, management schemes should include exercise training programs as well as patient and caregiver education.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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