FRIDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The same low-dose baby
aspirin millions take to stave off heart attacks and strokes may
also help put the brakes on age-related mental decline, a new study
The study included close to 700 Swedish women aged 70 to 92,
most of whom had heart disease. Those who took low-dose aspirin
every day to prevent a heart attack showed a less pronounced slide
in mental functioning after five years than their counterparts who
did not take aspirin.
At the end of the study, tests of memory, verbal fluency and
other mental capabilities showed some loss of brain power, but the
decline was significantly less and occurred at a slower pace among
the women who received aspirin continuously or even for a period of
time compared to those who never took it. The 66 women who took the
drug for all five years even saw some of their scores improve, the
Low-dose aspirin was defined as between 75 and 160
Some experts aren't surprised by the findings.
"What is good for the heart is also usually good for the brain," said Dr. Richard Isaacson, an associate professor of clinical neurology and director of the Alzheimer's division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "Low-dose aspirin, a healthy diet, physical exercise on a regular basis, no smoking, and alcohol in moderation are all essential components of brain protection," said Isaacson, who was not involved with the study.
The study, led by Silke Kern and colleagues from Sahlgrenska
Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Molndal, Sweden, is
published online in
The researchers not only compared aspirin-users to non-users,
they also looked at women taking other nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs. Only aspirin-users reaped the brain
benefits, the tests showed.
However, exactly how, or even if, low-dose aspirin affects
mental status is far from conclusive, and the study authors said
they don't want to encourage the elderly to self-medicate with
aspirin to avoid dementia. The risk of bleeding is always a
possibility, they noted.
While the results indicate that aspirin may protect the brain,
at least among women at high risk for a heart attack or stroke, the
effects of long-term treatment aren't known. The researchers will
now track the same women for five more years.
Some U.S. experts, including Isaacson, already recommend
low-dose aspirin to help reduce risk for Alzheimer's disease and
improve brain health.
"I have recommended 81 milligrams of baby aspirin for my patients with any vascular risk factors who are either at risk for developing cognitive decline or who currently have mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease," said Isaacson.
He said that the benefits of daily baby aspirin typically
outweigh the risks unless the person has a history of
Another expert, Dr. Sam Gandy, an associate director of the
Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in New York City,
said the findings are absolutely plausible.
"At least some of the risk for Alzheimer's disease is due to underlying cardiovascular disease, so inasmuch as aspirin helps protect from [heart disease], it is bound to have some benefit in reducing the risk for Alzheimer's disease," said Gandy. However, further studies are needed to confirm the findings, he said.
The American Heart Association has more about aspirin's role in
heart attack prevention.
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