Old fashioned aspirin is once again looking like a hero. More studies are reporting that people who have taken a low dose aspirin tablet daily, which is common practice in the U.S. to prevent heart attacks, are also receiving some protection from dementia.
According to a study conducted at the University of Gothenburg in Mölndal, Sweden, women who took a low dose of aspirin over a 5 year period were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This is not the first study to suggest that aspirin may be effective in combating the onset of Alzheimer's, but it adds to the body of favorable data.
Another article, this one on the National Emergency Medicine Association’s website, mentions a new study that appeared in the journal Neurology. This study included more than 5,000 residents of Utah age 65 and older. Within this group, the incidence of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia was 45% lower for people who took aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications for more than two years, than those who didn't.
Researchers aren’t certain why aspirin seems to be effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s thought that inflammation may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication might then reduce the risk.
Another theory is that with Alzheimer's, enzymes in the brain cause a breakdown of proteins. When this occurs, amyloid plaque is formed and disrupts brain activity. Perhaps aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medications prevent this from occurring.
Finding out exactly how aspirin works to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is likely to take years of additional study. However, it’s well accepted by doctors that most of our efforts to protect our heart health also aids our brain. Lowering cholesterol, not smoking, exercising, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight are all positive steps we can take for our health. Now, it seems that taking one low dose aspirin tablet daily may be added to the list.
Despite all the good things attributed to aspirin, it's critical that you consult with your doctor before taking it. There are some risk factors including stomach problems and bleeding. Also, some people may be allergic to it.
For most people, it’s good news to know that a low dose aspirin a day may lower our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s inexpensive and available over the counter at any drug store and most grocery and big box stores. That makes it convenient as well. Check with your doctor to see if taking one low dose aspirin tablet daily is right for you.
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National Emergency Medicine Association. Retrieved from http://www.nemahealth.org/programs/nac/alzheimers_n_aspirin.htm
Walsh, N. (2012, October 05) Aspirin: Protects Brain as Well as Heart. MedPageToday. Retrieved from http://www.medpagetoday.com/Geriatrics/Dementia/35162