Blood thinners may pull double duty for people with the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation: New research suggests they help prevent dementia as well as stroke. Because atrial fibrillation increases the risk for stroke, people with the condition are often prescribed blood thinners (also known as anticoagulants) to prevent blood clots that can cause a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation also increases the risk for dementia. During the study, more than 26,000 of the 440,000 participants, all with atrial fibrillation, were diagnosed with dementia.
At the time they joined the study, about half of the participants were taking oral anticoagulants, such as warfarin, Eliquis (apixaban), Pradaxa (dabigatran), Savaysa (edoxaban) or Xarelto (rivaroxaban). The researchers found that people taking anticoagulants were 29 percent less likely to develop dementia than were those who were not taking the blood thinners.
When the researchers focused on people who continued to take the drugs, they found an even larger reduction (48 percent) in the risk for dementia. They also found that the sooner people started taking blood thinners after their diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, the lower their risk for dementia.