A Review of the Association Between Congestive Heart Failure and Cognitive Impairment


Paul J. Mather, MD, Jefferson Heart Institute, 925 Chestnut Street, Mezzanine, Philadelphia, PA 19107
E-mail: paul.mather@jefferson.edu


Heart failure is a growing epidemic with an estimated 5 million Americans suffering from this condition. Several clinical trials have demonstrated a high correlation between congestive heart failure (CHF) and cognitive impairment. The severity of cognitive impairment correlates positively with the degree of CHF. The underlying mechanism for cognitive impairment remains unclear but appears to be related to cerebral hypoperfusion and impaired cerebral reactivity with selective impairment of verbal memory and attention domains. Furthermore, cognitive dysfunction represents one aspect of frailty, a novel concept that encompasses a range of clinical conditions that results in functional impairment in patients with heart failure. In addition, frailty independently predicts mortality in CHF patients. Cognitive impairment is a common and predictable effect of CHF that contributes with social and behavioral problems to decreased compliance to prescribed therapy and increased hospital readmissions. A multidisciplinary approach is necessary to deal with the complexity of this clinical syndrome.