“These results show that heart and brain function are more closely related than appearances would suggest,” said study author Behnam Sabayan from Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.
“While these results might not have immediate clinical translation, they emphasise that assessment of cognitive function should be part of the evaluation of future cardiovascular risk,” Sabayan noted.
The study involved 3,926 people with an average age of 75 and without a history of heart attacks or strokes.
The people were also free of dementia.
Four tests were used to evaluate the participants’ high-level thinking skills at the beginning of the study.
The participants were then placed in groups of “low,” “medium” and “high” based on the results.
The participants were then followed for an average of three years to see who developed heart attacks or strokes.
During that time, there were 375 heart attacks and 155 strokes.
People in the lowest group of thinking skills were 85 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those in the highest group.
A total of 176 of the 1,309 people with low scores had heart attacks, compared with 93 of the 1,308 people with high scores.
The study was published online in the journal Neurology.