A new observational study is suggesting that commonly used drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease may actually have another benefit of preventing heart attacks and premature deaths. Swedish researchers reviewed records on 7,073 Alzheimer’s patients taking cholinesterase inhibitors, such as Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl and other brands. After over approximately 17 months of follow up, 831 of the patents had a heart attack or died.
After adjusting for various factors such as sex and previous cardiovascular disease, the researchers found that taking cholinesterase inhibitors reduced both the death rate and heart attack rate by about 35%. The risk also decreased further with increasing doses of the medicines. The authors emphasize that only a clinical trial could prove a causal relationship, but they suggest several possible reasons for the effect, including the anti-inflammatory properties of cholinesterase inhibitors.
“It’s very interesting that these drugs have such potentially beneficial effects,” said the lead author, Dr. Peter Nordstrom, a professor of geriatrics at Umea University. “But I would not tell people to take these drugs to prevent heart attack. This is only an association, and we cannot recommend them to prevent cardiovascular disease.”
The study appeared in The European Heart Journal.
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