|New Study Shows Aspirin Can Prevent Heart Problems and Death From Stroke and Vascular Problems
Only a third of the nearly 65 million Americans at risk for heart disease are taking aspirin.
Doctors have long prescribed aspirin to help heart attack victims avoid second attacks, but research released recently shows the pills can be a preemptive strike against ever having heart problems.
Taking an aspirin a day can reduce the risk of a first heart attack by 32 percent and can reduce the combined risk of heart attack, stroke and vascular death by 15 percent, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Aspirin thins the blood and deters clotting, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
“Aspirin is a life saver no question about it,” said Dr. Charles Hennekens, the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Miami Heart Institute cardiologist who led the research.
The study evaluated five previous aspirin trials with 55,580 participants, 11,466 of them women.
More than 150,000 first-time strokes and heart attacks could be prevented each year under an aspirin regimen, the study concluded.
Hennekens estimated that only a third of the nearly 65 million Americans at risk for heart disease are taking aspirin. The best candidates for the preventive therapy are men over 40 and women over 50 with one or more of the following: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes or family histories of heart attacks and strokes.
Doctors can determine a person’s risk for getting a heart attack. Those with more than a 10 percent chance of heart attacks or strokes over the next 10 years should consider taking 81 mg (the dose in a typical baby aspirin) to 325 mg of aspirin daily, Hennekens said.
Besides the pill, patients must exercise, control and reduce their weight and lower their cholesterol.
“Aspirin alone is not enough,” he said. He and others noted that aspirin is not without side effects. It can cause bleeding and erode the stomach lining so anyone with a history of gastritis or ulcers has to weigh the benefits versus the risks.
Other potential side effects include kidney failure and bleeding in the brain. Those scheduling tooth extractions or surgery should stop taking aspirin prior to the procedures.
Dr. Jonathan Fialkow, a cardiologist and medical director of the Cardiovascular Center of South Florida, said the latest study justifies what the American Heart Association has advocated for aggressive prevention measures.
“The more aspirin you take, the thinner your blood will be and the less likely you are to have a heart attack,” he said.
Hennekens said, “aspirin also can be a quick response for a person experiencing a heart attack or stroke.” If he or she quickly takes a 325 mg tablet of aspirin, they can boost their survival chances. “If you slip it under the tongue it will be absorbed; you don’t even have to swallow it,” he said. “It reduces the death rate by 23 percent.”