Harvard Heart Letter

Taking clot-prevention drugs for afib may lower risk of dementia

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Among people who have atrial fibrillation (afib), those who take anti-clotting medications may be less likely to develop dementia later in life than those who don’t take the drugs, a new study finds.

Afib, a disorder marked by a rapid, irregular heartbeat, raises the risk of stroke as well as dementia. Anti-clotting drugs are known to lower the risk of stroke, but the drugs’ effects on dementia weren’t clear. So Swedish researchers examined hospital and pharmacy registry data from nearly half a million people who were diagnosed with afib between 2006 and 2014.

They found that people with afib who took either warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs) were 29% less likely to develop dementia during the nearly nine years of follow-up. NOACs include apixaban (Eliquis), dabigatran (Pradaxa), edoxaban (Savaysa), and rivaroxaban (Xarelto). The findings suggest that starting anti-clotting drugs soon after an afib diagnosis could help people preserve their thinking abilities, according to the authors. The study was published in the October 2017 European Heart Journal.

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