An aspirin a day might just keep you sharp. A new study out of Sweden suggests that older women at risk of cardiovascular disease could slow the onset of cognitive decline by taking a low dose of aspirin every day. Don't, however, go reaching for the medicine cabinet just yet. Here, a concise guide to the study:
How was the study conducted?
Researchers enlisted 681 women between the ages of 70 to 92 and measured their mental capacities at the beginning and the end of the five-year study with a test called the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE). The MMSE measures a testee's sense of orientation with questions like "What is today's date?" while also evaluating visual-spatial awareness, among other factors. Some of the women were prescribed low doses of aspirin every day (or were already taking it to ward off heart attack or stroke), while a control group wasn't administered anything.
How did the aspirin takers score?
Even when age, genetic factors, and the use of other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were taken into account, women who took aspirin experienced less cognitive decline after five years, at least per the MMSE. At the end of the study, however, 41 of the participants developed dementia, and the rates were consistent whether they took aspirin or not.
So... does aspirin prevent cognitive decline?
Perhaps. Experts hypothesize that there could be a link between cardiovascular health and the brain. However, since this study was primarily observational, researchers are cautioning people not to self-medicate, since aspirin can cause side effects like ulcers and bleeding. "The results provide interesting insight into the importance of cardiovascular health on cognition," Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, tells BBC News. "But... more work is needed."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- Don't argue about politics this Thanksgiving. Just don't.
Subscribe to the Week