Common Heart Drug Is Linked To Dementia Risk: Study

Posted: May 8 2016, 9:24pm CDT | by , Updated: May 9 2016, 10:23pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Common Heart Drug is Linked to Dementia Risk: Study
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Research finds that the popular blood thinner Warfarin increases the risk of dementia in people with heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation.

Heart problems are often linked to dementia risk, but the selection of a drug to treat the heart problem could make a bad situation even worse, according to a new study.

Patients of heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation, who use the common blood thinner warfarin for a long period of time, have a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer disease compared to those who do not take the drug to treat their disorder. 

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia characterized by rapid and irregular heart beat. The condition can cause blood clotting that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Therefore, it requires blood thinners to cut the risk of blood clots. 

For the study, researchers recruited more than 10,000 patients with atrial fibrillation and non-AF conditions and given them the blood thinner in different doses on a long term basis. All the patients were aged 18 and above and had no history of dementia prior to the study.

Participants were followed for nearly seven years and researchers found that over the years the atrial fibrillation group experienced higher rates of dementia compared to the non-AF group. However, both had developed some sort of dementia. 

Study suggests that warfarin may not be directly responsible for the increased risk of dementia, but it’s constantly too low or too high dose can contribute to developing the disease. And it can cause problem in blood flow to brain. 

Dementia is a neurological disorder that impairs memory and leads to cognitive decline. Worldwide dementia patients are estimated 47.5 million and expected to increase to 75.6 million by 2030, according to WHO. The disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

“Our study results are the first to show that there are significant cognitive risk factors for patients treated with Warfarin over a long period of time regardless of the indication for anticoagulation,” said lead researcher Dr. Jared Bunch from Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. 

“First as physicians we have to understand that although we need to use anticoagulants for many reasons including to prevent stroke in AF patients, at the same time there are risks that need to be considered some of which we are only right now beginning to understand. In this regard, only those that absolutely need blood thinners should be placed on them long-term. Second, other medications like aspirin that may increase the blood thinners effect should be avoided unless there is a specific medical need. Finally, in people that are on Warfarin in which the levels are erratic or difficult to control, switching to lower agents that are more predictable may lower risk.”


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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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