In elderly women at high risk for heart disease, a daily low dose of aspirin may slow down cognitive decline, according to observational research published in the online journal BMJ Open.
For the study, 681 women (ages 70-92), all at high risk for heart disease, were given a battery of tests to measure their physical health, intellectual capacity (including verbal fluency and memory speed) and dementia using the mini mental state exam (MMSE).
The participants were followed over a period of five years, at the end of which the intellectual capacity of 489 women was measured again.
When the monitoring period began, 129 women were taking low-dose aspirin (75 to 160 mg) to protect against a heart attack or stroke. Another 94 were taking other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
On average, the MMSE score was lower among the whole group at the end of five years, but this decline was significantly lower in the 66 women who had taken aspirin every day over the entire period.
The results stayed the same after taking into account age, genetic factors, the use of other NSAIDs, and the cardiovascular risk score.
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 participants who had not taken aspirin at all, those who had taken aspirin for all five years increased their MMSE score, while those who had taken aspirin at some point, registered only slight falls in MMSE score.
The tests for verbal fluency and memory speed showed similar results, although the findings weren’t statistically significant. There were no differences in the rate at which the women developed dementia.
The researchers note that this was an observational study, and that the MMSE can’t detect subtle changes in cognitive ability. But they suggest that these results indicate that aspirin may help protect the brain — at least in women at high risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Source: British Medical Journal