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Current study: blood thinners can protect against dementia


Doctors have found that taking blood thinners reduces the risk of dementia

Dementia affects the lives of many elderly people around the world. Researchers have now found that so-called blood thinners, which are normally used to treat atrial fibrillation, also contribute to improved protection against dementia. The risk of developing dementia is reduced by 48 percent compared to people who did not use blood thinners.

The researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that blood thinners for atrial fibrillation can be used effectively to treat dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "European Heart Journal".

Taking blood thinners reduced the risk of developing dementia by 29 percent

The current study looked for a connection between anticoagulant therapy and dementia. In their investigation, the experts analyzed the health data of more than 444,000 Swedish patients with atrial fibrillation. All people in Sweden who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation between 2006 and 2014 were examined. In these examinations, 26,210 patients were diagnosed with dementia. If participants took an anticoagulant at the start of the study, this would prevent blood clots from forming. Such patients also had a 29 percent reduced risk of developing dementia compared to people who did not take anticoagulants.

Long-term use reduces the risk of dementia by almost 50 percent

If such anticoagulants are used for a longer period of time, the ingestion has an even greater impact on the likelihood of dementia. The long-term intake reduces the risk of dementia by almost 50 percent, explain the scientists in the team led by Dr. Leif Friberg from the Karolinska Institute.

What means are used to thin the blood?

The scientists consider the results of their investigation to be strong evidence that certain blood thinners (anticoagulants) can actually protect against dementia. Blood thinners are usually used to prevent stroke in people with atrial fibrillation. Blood thinners prescribed for atrial fibrillation include medications such as warfarin, apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban and rivaroxaban. The study found no difference in the prevention of dementia if older blood thinners such as warfarin were used instead of the newer anticoagulants, the experts from Sweden explain.

Microscopic strokes and their consequences

Blood thinners are supposed to prevent the formation of larger blood clots. Such blood clots can contribute to a stroke. For this reason, the doctors suspected that they also protect against smaller clots. Such small clots can also have dangerous consequences for human health. They can even lead to so-called microscopic strokes, which can go completely unnoticed, the authors add. Such microscopic strokes then lead to a deterioration in the cognitive abilities of those affected.

Timely use of blood thinners is important for protection against dementia

The protective effect against dementia appears to be all the greater, the more likely those affected began taking the blood-thinning medication after they had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, the scientists explain. The experts therefore suspect that using blood thinners as soon as possible after a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation could really be important for reducing the likelihood of dementia. The anticoagulants should not simply be discontinued by those affected. Doctors should also under no circumstances dissuade their patients from using oral anticoagulants without good reason. Friberg.

More research is needed

The link between blood thinning medication and the likelihood of developing dementia urgently needs further investigation. Hopefully the results should now be corroborated by other ongoing studies in this area, the authors say. (as)

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