Cognitive impairment in heart attack survivors

Years funded:
2018 - 2019

Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability in Australia. Recurrence is common, approximately 40% of all heart attacks occur in survivors of a previous heart attack. 

The risk of repeat events can be reduced up to 80% through behaviour change (taking medications, exercising, quitting smoking and healthy diet), especially when begun early and with the support of cardiac rehabilitation. However, many patients struggle to make these changes. 

Emerging evidence from our innovative work indicates that changes in brain function (cognition) associated with heart attack and heart disease risk factors may contribute to this struggle. 

Despite the potential for worse outcomes and shared vascular pathology between coronary heart disease and vascular dementia, cognitive assessment is rarely undertaken in heart attack survivors. This failure represents a missed opportunity to detect cognitive impairment, accommodate changes via patient education strategies and identify candidates for early dementia prevention. 

This study will be the first to determine the prevalence and course of cognitive changes in heart attack survivors after hospital discharge; determine the relative impact of impairment on secondary prevention behaviours (medication adherence, exercise, diet, smoking cessation and cardiac rehabilitation participation) and determine the feasibility and acceptability of referral for assessment and treatment for patients with persistent cognitive impairment.

Researcher Profile

Professor Robyn Gallagher

Institute: University of Sydney
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