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Aspirin May Not Help Aging Brain

Study Shows No Sign That Low-Dose Aspirin Slows Mental Decline in Women Aged 65 and Older
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 26, 2007 -- Taking low-dose aspirin every other day may not help women aged 65 and older keep their brains sharp as they age.

That's according to a study published online in BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal.

The study included more than 6,300 U.S. women who were at least 65 years old and had no history of major illnesses.

The women were enrolled in a large, long-term study of women's health. As part of the study, they received yearly supplies of low-dose aspirin or a pill containing no active ingredients (placebo). They didn't know whether they got aspirin or the placebo.

The women were told to take their assigned pill every other day. After doing so for an average of 9.6 years, the women took a mental skills test by telephone.

As part of the test, the women had to memorize a list of 10 words, read a short paragraph and remember key words from the paragraph, and name as many animals as they could think of in one minute.

Test scores were similar for women taking aspirin or placebo. That stayed true when the women took two more follow-up tests over the next four years.

Women in both groups also had similar rates of mental decline. In short, the aspirin group showed no overall mental advantages in the study.

There were a few possible exceptions.

Among women with high cholesterol, test scores declined more slowly for those taking aspirin. The same was true among women who were current smokers, but not among nonsmokers or former smokers.

But those results may have been due to chance, according to the researchers. They included Jae Hee Kang, DrPH, of Harvard Medical School and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Also, women taking aspirin were 20% less likely to have a substantial drop in their scores in the name-the-animals quiz. It's not clear if that had anything to do with aspirin, Kang's team notes.

The study doesn't show what the women's mental skills had been like before taking aspirin. It's unlikely that aspirin had a brief, short-term benefit before the first test, according to Kang and colleagues.

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