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A way to reduce the risk of developing dementia

December 2017

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Treatment used to help prevent strokes has been found to greatly reduce the risk of dementia.

Karolinska InstitutetDementia is one of the most feared problems associated with ageing, and this study, from the Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden, is now being examined around the world.

The research was incredibly thorough, involving thousands of patients in Sweden between 2006 and 2014. All the patients were suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF) or abnormal heart rhythms.  This carries a risk of blood clots forming and for patients suffering from AF, anticoagulants or blood thinners such as warfarin and rivaroxaban are recommended forms of treatment.

In the study, which was looking at various aspects related to stroke, it was found that 54 per cent of the patients who were already taking anticoagulants when the trial began had a 29 percent lower risk of dementia.

But the most significant findings were that from members of this initial group who continued to take the drugs right through the trial period rather than just for a time to treat possibly blood clots. It was found that this group, on longer term anticoagulants, had a 48 per cent reduction in dementia risk.

This is a huge percentage and is now creating a lot of discussion.

Another interesting aspect from the report was that it seems the benefits are the same for both the traditional and modern anticoagulants.

Common anticoagulant blood thinners include warfarin, enoxaparin and heparin.  The newer ones, developed to help reduce the risk of bleeding, include dabigatran, apixaban and rivaroxaban.

At the moment there are around 1.25 million people in the UK taking anticoagulant drugs, and warfarin is the most commonly prescribed.

With this research indicating that these drugs will help protect against the future development of dementia, this could offer a major breakthrough in this dreadful condition that affects so many families across the UK today.

There is of course more work still to be done. Professor Marten Rosenqvist, involved in the study, said: “Although we can’t prove a causal relationship, we believe that the results strongly suggest that blood-thinning drugs protect against dementia in AF patients.”

The Karolinksa Institutet is a leading medical university in Stockholm with global recognition and respect. A KI committee appoints the Nobel Laureates for Physiology or Medicine, and its pharmacology research is accepted to be at the cutting edge in the field of medical research in the world.

More information is available here.

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