Aspirin, the medicine-cabinet marvel that eases pain, lowers fevers and prevents heart attacks, may also conquer a form of senility.
New research that is still unpublished and must be confirmed by larger studies suggests that aspirin can stop--and even reverse--the ravages of tiny blood clots inside the head.
Dr. John S. Meyer of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said he has seen apparent improvement over time when aspirin is given to elderly people who have suffered multiple small strokes.
These people have what is called multi-infarct dementia. Repeated disruptions in blood flow kill parts of their brains, and they become confused and lose their memory and other intellectual faculties.
By far the biggest cause of dementia in the elderly is Alzheimer’s disease. It accounts for about 50% of the cases, and there’s no sign that aspirin helps that. However, about 30% of elderly senility cases result from multi-infarct dementia or a combination of that and Alzheimer’s.
In these people, an aspirin a day seems to hold off the ravages of senility or even bring back lost mental assets, said Meyer, who presented his evidence earlier this year at an American Heart Assn. stroke conference.
In a controlled test involving 70 elderly patients, half got an aspirin a day, while the rest did not. Otherwise, the two groups were identical. “After three years, it was quite apparent that the aspirin-treated group did significantly better,” Meyer said.
Tests also showed that blood flow inside the brain increased among aspirin patients but worsened in the others.
In general, the aspirin seemed to stabilize the disease or even reverse it. Some elderly people became well enough that their spouses could care for them at home. Others were able to drive again and even go back to work.