Daily Aspirin Slows Cognitive Decline

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The same daily low-dose aspirin that many take to protect against cardiovascular disease appears to impede cognitive decline as well.

The same daily low-dose aspirin that many take to protect against cardiovascular disease appears to impede cognitive decline as well.

Taking low-dose aspirin appears to protect against cognitive decline, according to the results of a study published online on October 5, 2012, in BMJ Open. Many already take low-dose aspirin to protect against heart attack and stroke.

The researchers carried out a prospective, population-based cohort study including 681 women in Gothenburg, Sweden, aged 70 to 92 years at baseline in the year 2000. Those who had dementia or who were using warfarin, clopidogrel, or heparin at baseline were excluded from the study. Of all participants, 601 (95.4%) had high cardiovascular risk, and 129 (18.9%) were taking 75 to 160 mg of aspirin per day at baseline.

To track participants’ cognitive abilities, they were administered the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and word fluency, naming ability, and memory word tests at baseline and at a 5-year follow-up. (The 5-year follow up was completed by 489 participants.) Without controlling for other covariates, the average MMSE score declined by 0.88 for the entire cohort, by 0.95 for non-users of aspirin, and by just 0.05 for those taking daily low-dose aspirin at baseline and the 5-year follow-up.

Even after controlling for baseline MMSE, baseline age, APOE-e4 status, use of other NSAIDs, and cardiovascular risk score, MMSE still declined significantly less for those on low-dose aspirin. The other cognitive tests showed similar trends, although the differences were not statistically significant. Among those with high cardiovascular risk, MMSE was reduced by 0.33 for those taking daily low-dose aspirin compared with 0.05 for those not taking aspirin. Again, there were similar trends on the other cognitive tests, but the differences were not statistically significant. There was also no statistically significant difference in the risk of developing dementia by the 5-year follow-up for those taking aspirin compared with those not taking aspirin.

The researchers conclude that low-dose aspirin treatment may have a neuroprotective effect in elderly women at high cardiovascular risk. They note, however, that the mechanism by which low-dose aspirin protects against cognitive decline is not fully understood and that further studies with longer follow-up periods are required to better evaluate the long-term effect of low-dose aspirin on cognitive function and dementia risk.

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