GIVING millions of Brits 2p-a-day heart drugs could cut their dementia risk by up to half, a study claims.
It found patients being treated for atrial fibrillation (AF) were 48 per cent less likely to develop the disease if they were taking cheap blood-thinning pills.
Around two million Brits have the condition, which causes a dangerously irregular heartbeat.
It raises the chances of stroke and heart failure.
But it can also cause blood clots, which some experts think may appear in the brain and trigger dementia.
Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm analysed health record data from more than 444,000 Swedish AF patients.
It is estimated that 850,000 Brits are suffering with dementia, with the figure expected to reach one million by 2027
The team said the findings “strongly suggest” that blood-thinning pills protect against dementia in patients with the condition.
Lead researcher Dr Leif Friberg said: “As a clinician I know there are AF patients who have a fatalistic view upon stroke. Either it happens or it does not.
“Few patients are fatalistic about dementia, which gradually makes you lose your mind.
“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.”
The blood-thinning pill can cost patients as little as 63p for their month’s supply
Prescribed blood thinners include the drugs warfarin, apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban and rivaroxaban.
Some cost as little as 63p for a month’s supply.
Their protective effect was greater the earlier treatment started after a diagnosis of AF, the scientists found.
Dr Friberg said patients should begin taking the drugs as soon as possible and continue using them.
Some experts believe that blood clots on the brain could be a trigger for dementia
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found no difference in dementia prevention between the older blood-thinning drug warfarin and newer anticoagulants.
Around 850,000 Brits have dementia, and the figure is expected to hit one million within a decade.
There is currently no cure but some drugs can control the symptoms.
James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We know that what is good for your heart is good for your head.
“This large study suggests that anticoagulant [blood thinning] drugs could reduce dementia risk in people with atrial fibrillation, but it cannot prove cause and effect.”
Dr Leif Friberg said the medication is a breakthrough for suffers of atrial fibrillation as they can ‘hang on to as many of their little grey cells’