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Alzheimer's & Aspirin

Who would ever have thought that a common non-prescription drug that most people keep in their medicine cabinets would be given credit for helping to prevent such things as heart attack, stroke and colon cancer? Now there is growing evidence that aspirin may even be effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer disease.

This past fall, a new study appearing in the journal Neurology reported that the incidence of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia was 45% lower for people who took aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications for more than two years, than those who didn't. No similar protective effect was found for popular non-NSAID painkillers such as acetaminophen. The study included more than 5,000 residents of Utah, all 65 and older. This is not the first study to suggest that aspirin may be effective in combating the onset of Alzheimer's, but it adds to the body of accumulating knowledge.

Why does aspirin appear to be effective? Doctors aren't sure and there are numerous theories about why it appears to work. For example, one theory is that Alzheimer's is caused by an inflammatory process in the brain. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication might then reduce the risk. Another theory is that with Alzheimer's, enzymes in the brain cause a breakdown of proteins. When this occurs, amyloid plaque is formed and disrupts brain activity. Perhaps aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medications prevent this from occurring.

It's likely that it will take additional years of study to determine why aspirin seems to be effective. In the meantime, it seems that what's good for preventing cardiovascular disease is also good for the brain. Such things as lowering cholesterol and stopping smoking may also help to prevent Alzheimer's.

Despite all the good things you've heard about aspirin, it's critical that you consult with your doctor before taking it. There is some risk including stomach problems and bleeding. Please use good sense and consult your physician before taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, or any other non-prescribed medications.


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