It has long been known that heart failure patients tend to have higher rates of depression and thinking problems, but it hasn’t been clear as to why this link exists. The latest research findings now shed some light on this association.
The latest study looked at how the body’s clock regulates cognition in mice and how certain parts of the brain become affected by heart failure. Researcher Tami Martino explained, “Neurosurgeons always look in the brain; cardiologists always look in the heart. This new study looked at both.”
Heart failure patients tend to experience cognitive impairment and depression, and Martino suspects the brain-heart connection is based in the body’s circadian clock, which follows the Earth’s 24-hour clock and uses light and darkness to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
For the study, the researchers looked at mice with a mutation in their circadian mechanism and found this mutation affected the structure of neurons in the brain responsible for cognition and mood.
After inducing heart failure in the mice, the researchers identified key genes in the brain that were altered in neural growth, stress, and metabolic pathways.
The researchers are hopeful that identifying the role of the circadian clock in depression and cognitive issues among heart failure patients may lend its way to possible new treatments to improve heart failure patient’s quality of life.
Martino suggests that patients should try to maintain healthy circadian rhythms to reduce cognitive issues and depression after heart failure. This can be done by avoiding shift work, reducing light exposure at night, avoiding social jet lag, and treat underlying sleep issues.