Daily Aspirin May Not Reduce Dementia Risk
A new Australian study finds that, contrary to popular belief, taking low-dose aspirin once a day does not appear to lower the risk of thinking and memory problems caused by mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or probable Alzheimer’s disease, nor does it slow the rate of cognitive decline.
Due to aspirin’s anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning properties, doctors have long been prescribing low-dose aspirin for some patients to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.
And since aspirin can be beneficial to the heart, researchers have hypothesized, and some smaller studies have suggested, that the drug may also be beneficial to the brain. The idea is that aspirin, in low doses, could potentially reduce the risk of dementia by lowering inflammation, minimizing small clots or perhaps by preventing the narrowing of blood vessels within the brain.
However, there are also possible risks to taking aspirin, including bleeding in the brain, so guidance from a doctor is important.
“Worldwide, an estimated 50 million people have some form of dementia, a number that is expected to grow as the population increases, so the scientific community is eager to find a low-cost treatment that may reduce a person’s risk,” said study author Joanne Ryan, Ph.D., of Monash University’s School of Public Health in Melbourne, Australia.
“Unfortunately, our large study found that a daily low-dose aspirin provided no benefit to study participants at either preventing dementia or slowing cognitive decline.”
For the study, the researchers observed 19,114 people ( the majority were age 70 and older) who did not have dementia or heart disease. The participants underwent thinking and memory tests at the start of the study as well as during follow-up visits.
Half of the subjects were given daily 100 milligram low-dose aspirin while the other half were given a daily placebo. All of the participants were followed for an average of 4.7 years, with annual in-person examinations.
Over the course of the study, 575 people developed dementia.
The results show no differences between the participants who took aspirin and those who took placebo regarding the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or probable Alzheimer’s disease. There was also no difference in the rate of cognitive change over time.
“While these results are disappointing, it is possible that the length of just under five years for our study was not long enough to show possible benefits from aspirin, so we will continue to examine its potential longer-term effects by following up with study participants in the coming years,” said Ryan.
One limitation of the study was that only relatively healthy people were enrolled, and such a population may benefit less from aspirin than the general population.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health in the United States, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Monash University and the Victorian Cancer Agency. Bayer, the maker of the drug, provided the trial drug and placebo but had no other role in this trial.
The study is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Source: American Academy of Neurology
Pedersen, T. (2020). Daily Aspirin May Not Reduce Dementia Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/03/30/daily-aspirin-may-not-reduce-dementia-risk/155279.html