As the old adage goes, an aspirin a day keeps the doctor away. However, new research shows that an aspirin a day will not keep dementia away.
The ASPREE study, Aspirin in Reducing Events in Elderly, evaluated the use of daily, low-dose aspirin in delaying cognitive decline for healthy older adults. Unfortunately, the study did not find that aspirin had any benefit on reducing memory and thinking problems.
“Aspirin is a commonly used drug known to reduce inflammation.,” explained Joanne Ryan, PhD, who collaborated with her colleagues on ASPREE study. “Since inflammation is a significant factor in Alzheimer’s disease, it formed the basis of the hypothesis that aspirin could be beneficial in helping to reduce the occurrence of cognitive decline.”
The ASPREE study involved more than 19,000 participants, mostly 70 years of age and older, who did not have heart disease or a diagnosis of dementia. Half the participants received 100mg of aspirin daily and half received a placebo. All participants received a series of memory & thinking tests throughout the study.
“At the end of the five year trial, we identified that aspirin had no effect on dementia regardless of ethnicity, age, gender or an individual’s current health.” said Dr. Ryan, head of the Biological Neuropsychiatry and Dementia Unit at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine in Melbourne, Australia.
The question remains whether aspirin could be beneficial if begun in mid-life, long before Alzheimer’s disease starts to take hold in the brain. Dr. Ryan feels it is possible that the benefits of low-dose aspirin may not be seen for several more years. For that reason, the National Institute on Aging, which funded the ASPREE trial, has sponsored ongoing monitoring of cognitive function and other health measures for the trial’s participants. However, it will be some years before results are known.
“The ASPREE study provides strong evidence that low-dose aspirin will not reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ryan. “While the results are disappointing, the findings are very relevant to older people and their physicians and indicate aspirin should not be prescribed solely on the basis of potential cognitive benefits.”