Heart failure and cognitive impairment: challenges and opportunities.
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As populations age, heart failure (HF) is becoming increasingly common, and in addition to a high burden of morbidity and mortality, HF has an enormous financial impact. Though disproportionately affected by HF, the elderly are less likely to receive recommended therapies, in part because clinical trials of HF therapy have ignored outcomes of importance to this population, including impaired cognitive function (ICF). HF is associated with ICF, manifested primarily as delirium in hospitalized patients, or as mild cognitive impairment or dementia in otherwise stable outpatients. This association is likely the result of shared risk factors, as well as perfusion and rheological abnormalities that occur in patients with HF. Evidence suggests that these abnormalities may be partially reversible with standard HF therapy. The clinical consequences of ICF in HF patients are significant. Clinicians should consider becoming familiar with screening instruments for ICF, including delirium and dementia, in order to identify patients at risk of nonadherence to HF therapy and related adverse consequences. Preliminary evidence suggests that optimal HF therapy in elderly patients may preserve or even improve cognitive function, though the impact on related outcomes remains to be determined.
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