Since heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s only natural that we be slightly paranoid when it comes to any conditions related to the heart. Add to that the risk of stroke, and most people who know how these things work will want to get treatment to prevent any possible mishaps.
But what do you do if that treatment might cause you harm in the future? You can’t really play it safe, since either way is dangerous, but which potential condition outweighs the other? I guess you’d have an easier time deciding if you knew how the medicine can hurt you. Well, according to a new study from the Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, common heart drug Warfarin increases dementia risk.
Atrial fibrillation and Warfarin
One of the most widely used heart medications in America, Warfarin, has been tied to some pretty negative issues. Mostly used for atrial fibrillation (but also for other conditions), the drug is a blood thinner, reducing the chances of developing any serious blood clots in the brain.
There are around 2.7 million people living with atrial fibrillation in the US alone. The symptoms include dizziness, tiredness, shortness of breath, and according to the American Heart Association, having the condition increases your chances of having a stroke fivefold. So of course, Warfarin is used to thin the blood and prevent blood clots from forming.
Warfarin and dementia study
In order to determine whether the concerns about Warfarin causing dementia were true, the researchers performed a meta-analysis using data from more than 10,000 patients. Half of the participants were long-term users of the medicine, although they didn’t all take it for the same medical conditions, while the other half were on different medication.
Seven years later, the researchers followed up on the participants in the studies. It turns out that the participants that were not on Warfarin had a 1.6 percent rate of developing dementia, while those on the medication had a 5.8 percent rate.
Why would that happen?
One of the most dangerous things about Warfarin is the fact that it’s infamously difficult to dosage properly. The correct dosage is different for everyone, and it doesn’t really depend on anything. On one hand, you can take too little and risk developing blood clots, while on the other your risk causing bleeding. Plus, it takes a long time for the body to process it, so finding the right dosage takes time.
While the chances of developing dementia were higher for those who had a harder time finding the correct dosage, the overall risk was higher for everybody taking the drug. Further studies will have to be performed in order to establish more precisely what in Warfarin causes the risk of dementia to climb so high.
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