Washington: Blood-thinning drugs not only reduce the risk of stroke in patients with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) but are also associated with a significant reduction in the risk of dementia, according to new research published Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.
The findings indicated that the patients with atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm), who were taking anti-coagulant drugs to prevent blood clots at the start of the study had a 29 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than patients, who were not on an anti-coagulant treatment.
The risk further reduced by upto 48 per cent when the patients continued to take the drugs.
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is known to carry an increased risk of stroke and dementia and anticoagulants have been shown to reduce the likelihood of stroke.
Leif Friberg and Marten Rosenqvist from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden conducted the study.
The team analysed 4,44,106 people in Sweden, who had been diagnosed with AF between 2006-2014 to examine the link between anticoagulant treatment and dementia.
The results strongly suggest that oral anti-coagulants protect against dementia in AF patients. They checked on what drugs had been prescribed and dispensed following the diagnosis. The results indicated that 26,210 patients were diagnosed with dementia.
When they first joined the study, 54 per cent of patients were not taking oral anti-coagulants such as warfarin, apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban or rivaroxaban.
They also found that the sooner oral anti-coagulant treatment was started after a diagnosis of AF, the greater was the protective effect against dementia.
Dr Friberg, who is associate professor of cardiology at the Karolinska Institute, said the important implications from these findings were that patients should be started on oral anticoagulant drugs as soon as possible after diagnosis of AF and that they should continue to take the drugs.
"Doctors should not tell their patients to stop using oral anti-coagulants without a really good reason. Explain to your patients how these drugs work and why they should use them", Dr. Friberg observed.