Dementia reduced with blood thinning drugs for atrial fibrillation

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By Philip Tubby | Wednesday 25 October 2017

Swedish scientists studying the number of new dementia cases in people with atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm) have found that treatment with oral anticoagulants (OACs) reduces the risk of subsequent dementia. The results are published today in the Journal of European Cardiology.

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“Stroke is a major risk factor for vascular dementia. Not only do anticoagulants protect against stroke in people with an abnormal heart rhythm but this study also links them to a reduced risk of dementia.

“This is a large study with interesting findings, but there are also some limitations to how the research was done. The study lacks the complete medical history of patients, and researchers didn’t consider factors like gender, education levels and other important aspects of lifestyle that can affect the risk of dementia. The findings highlight a need to investigate this link further, but the nature of the study prevents us from firmly concluding that anticoagulants reduce the risk of dementia. It will be important to see the results of other ongoing studies in this area, as well as teasing apart the exact relationship between anticoagulants and the risk of different types of dementia.

“Dementia has a complex relationship with other health conditions and studies like this can help inform decisions around how those conditions are treated to bring most benefit to the individual. We desperately need to develop effective treatments that target the causes of dementia, and looking at the effects of existing drugs could radically accelerate the time it takes to find a life-changing treatment.”

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Philip Tubby