A significant collateral consequence of a heart attack, researchers have discovered, can be a sharp decline in cognitive function.

Brain aging is pretty normal, and the attributes of the same include having difficulties in remembering things, multitasking and significant attention deficit, according to the National Institute of Aging. Cognitive decline occurs due to Alzheimer's disease also.

However, in a recent study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers found those who had a heart attack saw a steeper decline in their cognitive functioning in later years.

Researchers examined data from six major studies conducted in the United States, focusing on the relationship between heart disease and cognitive function. The research involved a total of 30,465 individuals, who were free from dementia, heart attacks, or strokes at the beginning of the studies. All participants underwent cognitive assessments.

During the course of the research, more than 1,000 participants experienced a heart attack. Initially, there was no immediate impact on their cognitive abilities. However, over the following six years, these individuals showed a more rapid decline in cognitive scores, compared to those who did not have a heart attack.

Dr. Eric Smith and Dr. Lisa Silbert--the medical director of the Cognitive Neurosciences Clinic at the University of Calgary in Alberta and a professor of neurology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine in Portland, respectively--noted in an accompanying editorial that even though the rate of decline in memory in heart attack patients was small, its effects could deepen with age.

"It is possible that accruing subclinical decline over years or decades could eventually impair function or decrease cognitive reserve, making the person more vulnerable to the effects of age-related neurodegenerative pathologies," Smith and Silbert wrote in the editorial, CNN reported.

Researchers also noted that white individuals were at a higher risk of experiencing this adversity compared to Black patients, and men compared to women.

Smith and Silbert said before having a heart attack, people's cognitive decline was similar to those without a heart attack, but afterward, their deterioration accelerated.

"Stroke was excluded as the cause of the decline," they wrote in the editorial. "The lack of an immediate decrease in cognition and the steeper decline in subsequent years suggests that the heart attack was associated with a slower, progressive process that accelerated cognitive decline," they wrote.

Don't go to your computer if you have chest pain. Call 911. It may save your life. Pexels