Blood thinners cut dementia risk by up to 48%, new study shows

Anti-coagulants such as warfarin can cut the risk of dementia in people with atrial fibrillation. Source: Getty

Blood-thinners could help protect against dementia, a new study in Sweden has shown.

The scientists led by Leif Friberg at the Stockholm’s Karolinkska Institute studied more than 26,000 people who’d suffered atrial fibrillation – a type of abnormal heart rhythm – between 2006 and 2014.

AF increases the risk of having a stroke or a blood clot, and previous research has also shown that people who have AF have a substantially higher risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. 

The Swedish set out to find out what role anti-coagulant drugs, or blood thinners, had in the development of dementia in these patients.

Some people in the study had been treated with book thinners such as warfarin, while others had not.

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The people who did receive blood thinners and continued to take them were less likely to develop dementia, with their risk almost 50 per cent lower than the people who did not take the drugs to treat their AF.

Those who received blood thinners but had not continued to take them were 29 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

“The risk of dementia is higher without oral anticoagulant treatment in patients with AF,” the original research paper said. “This suggests that early initiation of anticoagulant treatment in patients with AF could be of value in order to preserve cognitive function.

Friberg told Medical News Today that many people with AF start taking anti-coagulants to prevent a stroke but stop taking the drugs after a few years. He says this may be robbing them of the protection against dementia the medication provides.

“Doctors should not tell their patients to stop using oral anticoagulants without a really good reason,” he said.

Have you taken blood thinners for AF? Have you stuck to taking them or stopped?