A UCLA imaging study revealed significant tissue loss in the regions of heart-failure patients' brains that regulate the autonomic nervous system, interfering with the cardiovascular system's ability to swiftly adapt to changes in blood pressure and heart rate. The damage lies in the same brain areas showing changes in people suffering major depression, which may explain why many heart-failure patients are often depressed.
The brain damage could dramatically affect heart-failure patients' ability to exercise and lowers their overall quality of life. Clinically, the findings emphasize the need for (1) cardiologists to recognize that heart-failure patients suffer from a brain injury, as well as a heart injury, and (2) that drugs or other therapies must be developed to cross the blood-brain barrier, prevent brain injury and boost brain function.
Authors of the study include Mary Woo, associate dean of research at the UCLA School of Nursing, and Ronald Harper, professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The research will appear in the August edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Cardiac Failure, Vol. 11, No. 6.
Grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Nursing Research supported the study.
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