THURSDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The same daily, low-dose
aspirin that many women take to lower their risk for heart attack
may have spillover benefits on their risk for developing mental
decline, suggests new research from Sweden.
In the study of nearly 700 women between 70 and 92 years old,
600 were considered to be at high risk for heart disease and
stroke. Of these, about 130 women were taking low-dose aspirin when
the study began, and nearly 100 more were taking various other
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
After five years, women who were taking low-dose aspirin showed
less decline on a standardized test measuring brain function than
women who were not on aspirin. The longer the women were taking
aspirin, the more pronounced the differences. Daily aspirin use did
not, however, have any bearing on the risk for developing
full-blown dementia, the study showed.
Exactly how aspirin may slow cognitive decline is not fully
understood, but it may enhance blood flow to the brain, concluded
study authors Dr. Silke Kern and colleagues at the University of
"Low-dose aspirin treatment may have a neuro-protective effect in elderly women at high cardiovascular risk," the researchers wrote.
The findings appear online Oct. 3 in the journal
Aspirin may help prevent strokes, and sometimes a series of
"mini-strokes" can add up to cognitive decline and even cause
dementia, said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, director of the integrated
cardiovascular intervention program at Brigham and Women's Hospital
in Boston. "It makes sense that this could be the case, but the new
study does not prove it."
"I would not start taking aspirin because of this study," Bhatt added. "This needs to be tested in a larger number of patients before we can say that aspirin has a role in preventing cognitive decline in women or men."
While the study found an association between aspirin use and
mental skills, it did not reveal a cause-and-effect link.
Not everyone can or should take aspirin, Bhatt noted.
"Aspirin can cause side effects and should not be taken by people who are at risk for ulcers or bleeding," he said. "Do not take aspirin without discussing it with your doctor."
None of the women in the new study developed ulcers or major
Still, the study authors concluded: "Longer follow-ups are
needed to evaluate the long-term effect of aspirin on cognitive
function and dementia."
Dr. Sam Gandy, chairman of Alzheimer's disease research and
associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research
Center in New York City, said: "Aspirin has many properties that
benefit the health of our blood vessels. This study shows just how
large a role brain circulation plays in maintaining good cognitive
Learn more about the
benefits and risks of aspirin for preventing heart
attacksat the American Heart Association.