Cognitive decline in heart failure: Biomolecular mechanisms and benefits of exercise

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2022 Nov 1;1868(11):166511. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2022.166511. Epub 2022 Aug 3.


By definition, heart failure (HF) is a pathological condition affecting the structure and function of all organs in the body, and the brain is not an exception to that. Failure of the heart to pump enough blood centrally and peripherally is at the foundation of HF patients' inability to attend even the most ordinary daily activities and progressive deterioration of their cognitive capacity. What is more, between heart and brain exists a bidirectional relationship that goes well beyond hemodynamics and concerns bioelectric and endocrine signaling. This increasingly consolidated evidence makes the scenario even more complex. Studies have mainly chased how HF impairs cognition without focusing much on preventive measures, notably cardio-cerebral health proxies. Here, we aim to provide a brief account of known and hypothetical factors that may explain how exercise can help obviate cognitive dysfunction associated with HF in its different forms. As we shall see, there is a stringent need for a deeper grasp of such mechanisms. Indeed, gaining this new knowledge will automatically shed new light on the inner workings of HF itself, thus resulting in more effective prevention and treatment of this escalating syndrome.

Keywords: BDNF; Cerebral blood flow; Cognitive dysfunction; Exercise training; Heart failure; Heart-brain axis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Exercise
  • Heart
  • Heart Failure* / therapy
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans