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Can aspirin slow brain decline?

4 October 2012

Can aspirin slow brain decline?

A new study has shown that taking an aspirin a day may slow brain decline in women with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Swedish study tracked 500 women between the ages of 70 and 92, who had this high risk, for 5 years. Their mental capacity was tested both at the beginning and end of the period.

The results showed that those taking aspirin saw their tests scores fall a lot less when compared to those not taking the drug.

Dr Silke Kern, one of paper’s authors, said, “Unlike other countries – Sweden is unique, it is not routine to treat women at high risk of heart disease and stroke with aspirin. This meant we had a good group for comparison.”

While the results showed that aspirin may slow changes in cognitive ability it made no difference to the rate at which the participant developed dementia.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “The results provide interesting insight into the importance of cardiovascular health on cognition, but we would urge people not to self-medicate with aspirin to try to stave off dementia.  The study reports no benefit from aspirin on overall dementia rates in the group, and previous trials investigating the potential of drugs like aspirin for dementia have been negative.”

Dr Kern added, “We don’t know the long term risks of taking routine aspirin. For examples ulcers and serious bleeds may outweigh the benefits we have seen. More work is needed. We will be following up the women in this study again in five years.”