Taking a daily dose of aspirin appears to slow brain decline in elderly women who are at high risk of heart disease, according to Swedish research.
The researchers looked at 681 women aged 70 to 92. Of those, 601 were at high risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to a report in the journal BMJ Open, women were tested for their physical ability, as well as their intellectual capacity, taking into account verbal fluency, memory speed and dementia.
After five years, the intellectual capacity of 489 of the women was assessed. On average, their scores in intellectual tests went down, however 66 women who had taken aspirin daily showed considerably less decline.
Researchers took into account other risk factors, such as age, genetics and the use of other medication.
Even taking aspirin occasionally appeared to have a positive impact, with the researchers saying those who had taken it at some point registered only insignificant falls in the mini mental state examination score — a common tool for diagnosing Alzheimer's.
The authors caution that it was an observational study and that their tests could not detect subtle changes in cognitive ability. But they believe their findings suggest that aspirin may protect the brain –– particularly in women at high risk of heart attack or stroke.
According to the Heart Foundation, people with chronic heart condition and other forms of vascular disease are advised to take low-dose aspirin daily. However people without known chronic heart condition are not advised to take aspirin because large international studies have repeatedly shown no or minimal cardiovascular benefits for people with healthy hearts.