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Aspirin as an Ally of Memory

Neurology: A study finds anti-inflammatory drugs may prevent or delay Alzheimer's disease.

September 30, 2002|JANE E. ALLEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease when they're taken regularly long before any symptoms arise.

A study appearing in the Sept. 24 issue of Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology, bolsters the thinking among many Alzheimer's doctors that aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs somehow protect brain cells against the ravages of the memory-robbing disorder.

The study was based on an analysis of 5,092 elderly residents of Cache County, Utah, from 1995 to 1996 and a follow-up three years later. The seniors with the longest history of taking the medications at least four times a week derived the greatest protective benefit, the study found. Those who took aspirin or such drugs as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, nabumetone, sulindac and oxaprozin for at least two years had just 45% of the rate of developing Alzheimer's as nonusers. Those who had taken them only recently experienced little neurological benefit.

In the past, several studies that looked at treating Alzheimer's with anti-inflammatories failed to show benefit. But the current results, taken together with studies conducted in Baltimore and in the Netherlands, suggest that sustained use of anti-inflammatories may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's if they're taken "during a critical window" before the brain suffers enough damage to cause symptoms.

The authors, led by Dr. John Breitner of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, suggested the window may close "several years prior to the onset of dementia."

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

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