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Heart Failure? Brain Training, Exercise, Supplements, Diet

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The cognitive impact is often serious, with an estimated 25 to 50 percent of stable chronic heart failure patients experiencing pre-dementia conditions of mild to moderate cognitive impairment.

The study below fits me to a tee because I am a long-term cancer survivor living with a host of long-term side effects. And it may be you too. I have chronic heart failure. To be specific I have chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy. For the sake of this post we can simply say that I have chronic heart failure.

In addition, I have chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction aka chemobrain. Though little is known about how/what/why chemobrain happens, the symptoms of chemobrain are similar to cognitive impairment. Memory, multi-tasking, word recall, facial recogniction- I have a lot in common, brain-wise, with my 90 year old mom.

Being 64 years of age, I want to keep my brain as healthy as possible for the rest of my life. While I’ve written extensively on PeopleBeatingCancer about various therapies for brain health and heart health, I’ve never found a study that talked about heart failure causing cognitive dysfunction and common therapies to manage both problems.

The main takeaway from the study below is that heart failure, atrial fibrillation, etc. causes mild to moderate brain impairment. A weak heart just doesn’t pump enough blood to keep our brains healthy.

If you heart isn’t feeding your brain properly, you and I must figure our how to feed and exercise our brains daily. According to the info below combined with my experience since about 2014, BrainHQ is an easy way to exercise many different functions of your brain.

Let me explain. My memory needs help. Therefore providing games with different types of lists, helps me a lot. Not only does BrainHQ have facial recognition games, it has games that play with facial expressions. My favorite brain game is called Double Decision. I’ve gotten pretty good playing this one.

Each morning, an email from BrainHQ arrives in my email in-box. I log into the game, play a couple of the dozens of games and I have exercised my brain for the day.

A quick word about physical exercise. I am handicapped. I can walk with assistence but only for a mile or so. Therefore I have to head to my local Life Time Fitness to spend about 45 minutes on an elliptical machine. I don’t move too fast. But I can exercise my heart each day. I liken this moderate exercise to the 30-45 minutes of walking discussed in the study. And I stretch too.

Please read the posts linked below that talk about nutritional supplementation for brain health such as cocoa (dark chocolate), curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids.

To learn more about either brain health or heart health, scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.


David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:

Study: Brain Training for Heart Failure

” A new study — made available online in advance of print by The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatryand conducted by a team from Emory University — found that brain training could be helpful in patients coping with heart failure. The brain exercises used in the study were from Posit Science, the maker of the online brain training app BrainHQ

While heart failure is distressing alone, its interaction with cognitive decline creates a downward spiral. The study authors point out that heart failure “negatively impacts function in most cognitive domains” adversely affecting a patient’s “capacity to participate in essential self-care activities, such as managing complex medication regimens and adhering to dietary restrictions.” The cognitive impact is often serious, with an estimated 25 to 50 percent of stable chronic heart failure patients experiencing pre-dementia conditions of mild to moderate cognitive impairment.

This is the first study to measure the impact of a combined regimen of physical exercise and brain exercise on heart failure patients.

The study was a three-arm randomized controlled trial, in which 69 patients were assigned to one of three groups for 90 days:

  1. an intervention group asked to engage in aerobic exercise three times per week (walking for 30-45 minutes);
  2. an intervention group asked to engage in the same aerobic exercise program plus an additional total of 40 hours (over 90 days) of computerized auditory training exercises; and
  3. a control group asked to engage in a stretching and flexibility protocol 2-3 times per week.

The patients were measured with various standard tests at the beginning of the study, after 3 months and after 6 months. The researchers reported that their main finding was that the exercise-plus-cognitive-training group had significant improvement in verbal memory at 3 months, and a trend for sustained improvement at 6 months, compared to the exercise only and control groups

The Emory researchers observed that their findings are consistent with earlier findings that suggest computerized brain training “may be an effective strategy for improving memory in persons with [heart failure]…”

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