Blood thinners are often prescribed to prevent strokes in people who have an unusual heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. But a new study suggests that these drugs could help to keep dementia at bay.
The researchers said that the most important thing is to start with blood thinners, such as warfarin, soon after diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. This is true even for those at low risk of a stroke that would not normally be given blood thinners.
"We found that people on warfarin had very low dementia rates – the most common blood thinners used to prevent patients with atrium fibrillation – including Alzheimer's disease," said the principal researcher, Dr. . T. Jared Bunch. He is a director of heart rhythm research at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah.
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart that affects nearly 3 million American adults. It means that the heart must beat remarkably or quiver. This leaves the blood, and then she can clot.
Atrial fibrillation can cause dementia by damaging small blood vessels in the brain through tiny small stones or small bleeding that even people do not understand, Bunch explained.
While many patients are initially given aspirin, Bunch said that aspirin benefits are limited to cutting the risk of dementia, and patients on warfarin or other blood thickness should be started.
While the study looked at patients taking warfarin (Coumadin), new drugs – including rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and apixaban (Eliquis) – should reduce the risk of more dementia, said Bunch.
In patients with atrium fibrillation, the stroke risk is usually measured using the so-called CHADS score, the researchers said. This score assigns points to a number of risk factors, such as age, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and previous stroke.
Normally, a zero score means that one does not require blood thinners because the risk for stroke is low. Patients with scores above one are considered necessary, as these researchers are considered to be at high risk.
In this study, however, the investigators said that they even found that delays in blood feelings increase giving patients with low risk for stroke the risk of dementia.
In patients considered to have low risk of stroke, delays in treating blood dementia increased the risk of dementia by 30 per cent. In high risk patients, risk delay increased by 136 per cent, the researchers reported.
The longer the delay in giving blood vessels, the greater the risk of dementia, the researchers said.
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For the study, Bunch and his colleagues looked at information from more than 76,000 iterative fibrillation patients who had no dementia history. The average age of participants in the study was 69, of which 57 per cent were male. The researchers looked at the time the treatment began: within 30 days of an iterative fibrillation diagnosis, which was considered to be immediate; or after a year, which was deemed to be delayed.
"When you are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, it is necessary to start stroke prevention strategies immediately. We should not wait longer than a month to start treatment," Bunch said. "The delay in treatment can be disastrous for patients when they start developing mental decline a year later," he said.
The results of the study were scheduled for Friday's presentation at a meeting of the Rhythm Heart Society in Chicago. The results presented at meetings are usually considered as aforesaid until they are published in a peer reviewed journal.
According to Dr. Byron Lee from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), "A growing literature firm is supporting the connection between iterative fibrillation and dementia." Lee is a professor of medicine and director of the UCSF electrophysics laboratories and clinics.
"Therefore," he said, "we must be extremely aggressive about the treatment of atrial fibrillation patients with anticoagulants on them." [blood thinners] when indicated. This study shows that one-month treatment delays can significantly increase cognitive incidence [mental] decline, "said Lee.