The common blood thinner Warfarin has been linked to increased dementia risk by a new study.
Warfarin is typically prescribed to help prevent clots and strokes.
However, the other side of the drug is that it can also increase the chance of bleeds in the brain.
Bleeds in the brain are linked to worse brain function over time and dementia.
The study involved people treated with the drug for atrial fibrillation, the most common form of arrhythmia.
Dr T. Jared Bunch, the study’s lead author, said:
“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.”
The study involved 10,537 people with no history of dementia who were followed up over 7 years.
Dr Bunch said:
“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 that 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 newer agents that are more predictable may lower risk.”
Naturally, anyone considering changing their medication should consult their physician.
The findings were presented at Heart Rhythm 2016 in San Francisco.
Image credit: cora alvarez