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Published on: October 3, 2012
by Jenny Hope for The Daily Mail:
Taking a low dose of aspirin may help keep the brain young, claim researchers. A study of older women taking low doses to prevent heart disease found it also helped preserve their memory.
Millions of Britons take aspirin on doctor’s orders to prevent heart problems. Other research suggests it may cut the risk of cancer.
There have been conflicting results from studies about whether long-term use of Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin protects against declining brain power and dementia. But research published in the online journal BMJ Open found regular low-dose aspirin did slow cognitive decline.
The five-year study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, involved 681 women aged 70 to 92. The majority of women were at high risk of heart disease and stroke.
Decline in brain power was found to be considerably less among those who took aspirin every day over the entire period. It is thought the same effect would be found in men.
All the elderly women were put through tests to measure their physical health and intellectual capacity, including verbal fluency and memory speed, and dementia.
A group of 129 women were taking low dose aspirin (75 to 160 mg) every day to ward off a heart attack or stroke when the study started. A further 94 were taking various other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Their health was tracked over five years, at the end of which the intellectual capacity of 489 women was assessed again. The mini-mental state examination (MMSE) score fell, on average, across the whole group at the end of the five years, but this decline was considerably less in the 66 women who had taken aspirin every day over the entire period.
The researchers then divided up the group into those who had taken aspirin for the entire five years (66); those who had stopped taking it by 2005-6 (18); those who were taking it by 2005-6 (67); and those who hadn’t taken the drug at any point (338).
Compared with women who had not taken aspirin at all, those who had done so for all five years, increased their MMSE score, while those who had taken aspirin at some point, registered only insignificant falls in MMSE score.
There were no differences, however, in the rate at which the women developed dementia.
The scientists say aspirin’s protective effect may be due to its anti-clotting action helping to improve blood flow to the brain.
Professor Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘It is a potential additional benefit. However aspirin does have a number of potentially serious side-effects with long-term use and shouldn’t be taken for long periods unless prescribed by a doctor.’
The author of the research paper, which was published in the online journal BMJ Open, expressed caution over the observational study as the MMSE can detect subtle changes in cognitive ability.
Dr Anne-Borjesson-Hanson University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said: ‘The findings indicate that aspirin may protect the brain, at least in women at high risk of a heart attack or stroke.’
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