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Poor Thinking Skills and Heart Disease Risks Are Closely Associated

According to a new study, people with poor thinking skills are likely to have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Annually, around 735,000 Americans experience a heart attack; close to 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke. Common risk factors for stroke and heart include having high cholesterol and blood pressure levels and being overweight.

Led by Dr. Benham Sabayan, researchers from the Netherland’s Leiden University Medical Center postulate that cognitive performance may indicate an individual’s predisposition to these cardiovascular disorders. To this end, “assessment of cognitive function should be part of the evaluation of future cardiovascular risk,” Dr. Sabayan suggested.

For this study, the research team obtained data from close to 4,000 people. These participants had no history of stroke, dementia or heart attack. Having an average age of 75, some of these people, however, had a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or tobacco use.

After monitoring them for heart attack or stroke incidents over three years, the researchers found that heart attack risk was higher by 85 percent in people who performed poorly in their cognitive functions; stroke risk was also greater, by 51 percent.

For Dr. Sabayan and his team, it’s all about brain health. “Worse brain functioning,” according to him, “could reflect disease of the brain vascular supply, which in turn would predict, as it did, a higher likelihood of stroke.”

Dr. Sabayan added, “And, since blood vessel disease in the brain is closely related to blood vessel disease in the heart, that's why low test scores also predicted a greater risk of heart attacks.”

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