Another reason to take an anticoagulant if you have atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a common type of irregular heartbeat: People with a-fib are at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia, but not if they take one of these anticlotting drugs, suggests a study in Neurology in November 2018.
For six years, researchers followed 2,685 people in Sweden, average age 73 and free of dementia at the start. About 9 percent had a-fib at baseline, and another 11 percent developed it over the course of the study; 15 percent of participants developed dementia.
Overall, people with a-fib had faster cognitive decline and a 40 percent elevated overall risk of dementia (mostly vascular dementia, but not Alzheimer’s) than those without a-fib. However, those taking anticoagulants (such as warfarin, dabigatran, and apixaban) had no increased risk of dementia. Aspirin and other antiplatelet drugs did not eliminate the excess risk.
As the accompanying editorial concluded, “the reduced risk of dementia associated with the use of OACs [oral anticoagulants] in this study and other recent publications should further encourage the anticoagulation of patients at risk.”
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.