For many years doctors have recommended a daily low-dose aspirin to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. But a new study has found that aspirin may also help elderly women preserve their memory.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg studied 681 Swedish women between the ages of 70 and 92. At the beginning of the study, they administered a cognitive memory tested called the mini mental state exam (MMSE) to measure the women’s memory, math and basic language skills. They also asked about their use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
Five years later, the researchers tested the memory skills of the women, using the same MMSE test.
They found that women who did not take aspirin had a significant decline of 0.95 points in their MMSE scores.
Women who took a daily low-dose aspirin also had a decline in their memory skills, but the loss was not as significant — only 0.33 points on the MMSE test.
Researchers said neither aspirin or NSAIDs seemed to effect the rate of dementia in women. And NSAIDs appeared to have no impact on their memory scores.
Why aspirin slowed the rate of memory decline was not determined in the study, but the authors speculated that the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin improved blood flow in the brain.
“In low doses, [aspirin] thus mainly confers an antiplatelet effect and a limited anti-inflammatory effect. It is therefore possible that [aspirin] might influence cognitive decline by enhancing the cerebral blood flow by reducing platelet aggregation,” the study said.
“This study shows that aspirin could have small benefits for slowing cognitive decline in women at high cardiovascular risk,” said Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “The results provide interesting insight into the importance of cardiovascular health on cognition, but we would urge people not to self-medicate with aspirin to try to stave off dementia.”
The study was published in the peer reviewed journal BMJ Open.