Importance: The magnitude of cognitive change after incident myocardial infarction (MI) is unclear.
Objective: To assess whether incident MI is associated with changes in cognitive function after adjusting for pre-MI cognitive trajectories.
Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study included adults without MI, dementia, or stroke and with complete covariates from the following US population-based cohort studies conducted from 1971 to 2019: Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, Cardiovascular Health Study, Framingham Offspring Study, Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, and Northern Manhattan Study. Data were analyzed from July 2021 to January 2022.
Exposures: Incident MI.
Main outcomes and measures: The main outcome was change in global cognition. Secondary outcomes were changes in memory and executive function. Outcomes were standardized as mean (SD) T scores of 50 (10); a 1-point difference represented a 0.1-SD difference in cognition. Linear mixed-effects models estimated changes in cognition at the time of MI (change in the intercept) and the rate of cognitive change over the years after MI (change in the slope), controlling for pre-MI cognitive trajectories and participant factors, with interaction terms for race and sex.
Results: The study included 30 465 adults (mean [SD] age, 64  years; 56% female), of whom 1033 had 1 or more MI event, and 29 432 did not have an MI event. Median follow-up was 6.4 years (IQR, 4.9-19.7 years). Overall, incident MI was not associated with an acute decrease in global cognition (-0.18 points; 95% CI, -0.52 to 0.17 points), executive function (-0.17 points; 95% CI, -0.53 to 0.18 points), or memory (0.62 points; 95% CI, -0.07 to 1.31 points). However, individuals with incident MI vs those without MI demonstrated faster declines in global cognition (-0.15 points per year; 95% CI, -0.21 to -0.10 points per year), memory (-0.13 points per year; 95% CI, -0.22 to -0.04 points per year), and executive function (-0.14 points per year; 95% CI, -0.20 to -0.08 points per year) over the years after MI compared with pre-MI slopes. The interaction analysis suggested that race and sex modified the degree of change in the decline in global cognition after MI (race × post-MI slope interaction term, P = .02; sex × post-MI slope interaction term, P = .04), with a smaller change in the decline over the years after MI in Black individuals than in White individuals (difference in slope change, 0.22 points per year; 95% CI, 0.04-0.40 points per year) and in females than in males (difference in slope change, 0.12 points per year; 95% CI, 0.01-0.23 points per year).
Conclusions: This cohort study using pooled data from 6 cohort studies found that incident MI was not associated with a decrease in global cognition, memory, or executive function at the time of the event compared with no MI but was associated with faster declines in global cognition, memory, and executive function over time. These findings suggest that prevention of MI may be important for long-term brain health.