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warfarin usage and memory loss

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“In patients who have very stable and predictable levels of warfarin these data are reassuring as dementia rates are very low,” says Bunch. “In people who have very erratic [warfarin] levels then alternatives such as a direct oral anticoagulant or a non-pharmacologic approach may be preferable for their long-term management.”


“People taking blood thinning medications like warfarin should be carefully monitored to check their dosage is working correctly,” Pickett adds.

The study [1]
, which was presented at the Heart Rhythm Society Annual Scientific Sessions in San Francisco, California, on 5 May 2016, involved 10,537 patients with no history of dementia who were being anticoagulated with warfarin. Overall, 4,460 patients were being treated for AF, while the remaining patients had no history of AF and were taking warfarin for either thromboembolism (209 patients) or mechanical heart valves (5,868).

Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) being treated with warfarin have higher rates of dementia compared with those taking the drug for other conditions, research shows.

Atrial fibrillation can cause dementia by damaging tiny blood vessels in the brain through repeated tiny clots or small bleeds that people aren’t even aware of, Bunch explained.

While many patients are initially given aspirin, Bunch said aspirin’s benefit in cutting the risk for dementia is limited, and patients should be started on warfarin or another blood thinner.

A score of zero to one usually means blood thinners aren’t needed because the risk for stroke is low. For patients with scores above one, blood thinners are considered necessary, as these patients are judged to be at moderate to high risk, according to the researchers.

The researchers said that the key is to start blood thinners, such as warfarin, soon after atrial fibrillation is diagnosed. That’s true even for people at low risk of a stroke who wouldn’t normally be given blood thinners.

In patients considered at low-risk for stroke, delaying blood-thinning treatment increased the risk for dementia 30 percent. In high-risk patients, a delay increased the risk 136 percent, the researchers reported.