This fantastic discovery, which was recently published in the European Heart Journal, could provide hope to many people who are at risk of developing dementia all around the world. The researchers reached this conclusion by collecting and studying the health data of 444,000 Swedish sufferers of AF, who were diagnosed between 2006 and 2014, paying particular attention to the drugs that each patient was prescribed.
According to the study's co-author, Dr. Leif Friberg from Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, "there are AF patients who have a fatalistic view on stroke. Either it happens or it does not. Few patients are fatalistic about dementia, which gradually makes you lose your mind.” He also said that "no brain can withstand a constant bombardment of microscopic clots in the long run. Patients probably want to hang on to as many of their little grey cells for as long as they can.”
Despite establishing concrete links between AF, dementia, and anticoagulants, the team still hasn't discovered what causes their relationship. However, they "strongly suggested" that commonly prescribed anticoagulants, such as apixaban, warfarin, rivaroxaban, edoxaban, and dabigatran, protected patients by not allowing dementia-causing blood clots to ever develop.
In spite of the uncertainty, Dr. Friberg still believes that AF patients would be wise to keep taking anticoagulants regularly. He says that "doctors should not tell their patients to stop using oral anticoagulants without a really good reason. To patients, I would say don’t stop unless your doctor says so." Just because they haven't found the underlying reason for their effectiveness, it doesn't mean that they don't work.
According to Dr. Carol Routledge, the Head of Science at Alzheimer’s Research UK, "the findings highlight a need to investigate this link further, but the nature of the study prevents us from firmly concluding that anticoagulants reduce the risk of dementia." She also said that "it will be important to see the results of other ongoing studies in this area, as well as teasing apart the exact relationship between anticoagulants and the risk of different types of dementia.”
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