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Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on
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Low-dose aspirin does not reduce cognitive impairment in older adults
Veronese N, Stubbs B, Maggi S, et al. Low-Dose Aspirin Use and Cognitive Function in Older Age: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017;65:1763-8.
In older adults who do not have cognitive impairment or dementia, does low-dose aspirin slow cognitive impairment?
As people age, it is natural for memory to get worse. Mild cognitive impairment can include problems with thinking, memory, language, and judgment that are noticeable. Dementia is more serious cognitive impairment that interferes with daily living. Many people use low-dose aspirin to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Since cardiovascular diseases are risk factors for cognitive impairment and dementia, it is possible that aspirin might prevent or slow worsening of cognitive function.
How the review was done
The researchers did a systematic review, searching for studies that were published up to September 2016. They found 3 randomized controlled trials with 10,037 people who were, on average, 67 years of age. 74% were women. People were followed for 3 to 10 years.
The key features of the studies were as follows:
- people in the trials did not have cognitive impairment or dementia;
- treatment was low-dose aspirin, less than 300 mg/day;
- low-dose aspirin was compared with placebo or no aspirin for at least 1 year; and
- the outcome was cognitive function.
What the researchers found
The quality of the trials was good.
People who took aspirin did not differ from those who did not for global cognitive test scores and verbal memory scores.
Low-dose aspirin improved executive function (ability to manage time, pay attention, switch focus) and fluency (ability to speak accurately and quickly) test scores.
More people who used low-dose aspirin had stomach-related adverse effects.
In people who do not have cognitive impairment or dementia, taking low-dose aspirin does not reduce cognitive impairment.
Low-dose aspirin vs placebo or no aspirin in people who do not have cognitive impairment or dementia
Global cognitive test scores
No differences between groups.
Verbal memory tests
No differences between groups.
Executive function and fluency tests
Low-dose aspirin improved scores.
Low-dose aspirin increased stomach-related side-effects.
Mental processes, including thinking, learning and remembering.
Trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect everyday life.
A harmless, inactive, and simulated treatment.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Aspects making a condition more likely.
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.
The body's network of blood vessels. It includes the arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart.
Related Evidence Summaries
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2014)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2012)
Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2020)
Related Web Resources
Informed Health Online
Gingko supplements (240 mg per day) may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and enable you to perform daily tasks better. Be aware that gingko could interact with other medications, so talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
Dementia affects millions of people around the world, and there is no current treatment. There are a few ways to lower your risk. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, stay social, and limit alcohol and smoking.
Dementia causes loss of mental ability, mood changes, and trouble with daily activities. Risk factors for heart disease could increase your risk of dementia like smoking, high cholesterol, drinking alcohol, or being overweight.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal