Under the Hood

Dementia Prevention: Daily Aspirin Does Not Help Avoid Memory Problem

Taking aspirin everyday may not help prevent dementia. A new study found the drug has no effect that could protect memory or delay cognitive decline.

Doctors commonly prescribe aspirin to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. But in the past years, small studies suggested the drug may also support dementia prevention because it could reduce inflammation in the brain.

To understand the link between aspirin and dementia risk, researchers gathered 19,114 people, with an average age of 70 or older and without signs of dementia or heart disease at the beginning of the study. Each participant took thinking and memory tests and either a daily 100 milligram aspirin or a daily placebo. 

Researchers then followed them for an average of 4.7 years with annual in-person examinations. By the end of the study, the team found that 575 people developed dementia. 

The study, published in the journal Neurology, states the people who took aspirin daily appeared unlikely to delay the development of thinking and memory problems caused by mild cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease. There was no difference in the risk of having cognitive problems between the people who took the drug and those who received placebo.

"Worldwide, an estimated 50 million people have some form of dementia, a number that is expected to grow as the population increases, so the scientific community is eager to find a low-cost treatment that may reduce a person's risk," Joanne Ryan, study author fom Monash University's School of Public Health in Melbourne, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, our large study found that a daily low-dose aspirin provided no benefit to study participants at either preventing dementia or slowing cognitive decline."

Ryan and her colleagues plan to conduct another study and follow the participants for a longer period of time to see the long-term effects of aspirin on brain health. Their recent research also has limitations, including the involvement of only relatively healthy people.

"While these results are disappointing, it is possible that the length of just under five years for our study was not long enough to show possible benefits from aspirin," she said. "So we will continue to examine its potential longer-term effects by following up with study participants in the coming years."

Alzheimer's disease People with Alzheimer's disease sit in the refectory of a retirement home on October 18, 2016 in Saint Quirin, eastern France. It is important to know the condition’s early signs or symptoms to get the right programs and services that can help support people with Alzheimer's disease and their families. Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images

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