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Aspirin Helps Prevent First Heart Attack

New Proof that Benefits of Aspirin Therapy Outweigh Risks for Most
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 24, 2003 -- If you needed another reason to follow your doctor's advice about daily aspirin therapy to protect your heart, here it is. New evidence shows that aspirin can lower your risk of a first heart attack by nearly a third.

The latest analysis of five major studies on aspirin therapy involving more than 55,000 men and women shows that the benefits of long-term aspirin therapy are likely to outweigh any risks.

Researchers also found that aspirin therapy reduces the combined risk of heart attack, stroke, and deaths related to cardiovascular disease by 15%.

The protective benefits of aspirin therapy in reducing the risk of first heart attack were first demonstrated in the Physician's Health Study published in 1988. Researchers say these findings back up those results and call for a greater use of aspirin therapy.

"We found that the current totality of evidence strongly supports our initial findings from the Physicians' Health Study that aspirin significantly reduces the risk of a first heart attack in apparently healthy individuals," says researcher Charles H. Hennekens, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center & Miami Heart Institute, in a news release.

"This data, along with the findings that aspirin reduces the risk of death by 23 percent if given during a heart attack and by 15 percent in a wide range of people who have survived prior cardiovascular events, demonstrate the need for wider utilization of aspirin."

New Proof That Aspirin Therapy Protects Heart

In this study, published in the Sept. 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers combined the results of the Physicians' Health Study with four other major published studies on aspirin therapy.

Overall, they found that aspirin was associated with a 32% reduction in the risk of a first heart attack and a 15% reduction in risk of other cardiovascular events including death related to heart disease.

Researchers estimate that more widespread and appropriate use of aspirin therapy would prevent more than 25,000 premature heart-related events per year among those who already have evidence of heart disease.

But these protective effects would be much greater among apparently healthy individuals who have never had a heart problem. Among these people, researchers say an estimated 150,000 premature heart-related events may be prevented with improved use of aspirin therapy.

"Yet despite the clearly demonstrated cardio-protective benefits of aspirin, this medication remains alarmingly underutilized among survivors of prior events, those having a heart attack and apparently healthy men and women, whose 10-year risk is 10 percent or more," says Hennekens. "We hope the latest findings result in greater awareness on the part of healthcare providers and the general public and motivate increased aspirin utilization, which could result in significant reductions of premature cardiovascular deaths and first heart attacks."

The dose of aspirin used in the studies ranged from 500 mg to 75 mg daily. A typical baby aspirin contains 81 mg and an adult tablet has 325 mg.

Previous research has suggested that persons taking the highest doses of aspirin therapy have a higher risk of developing bleeding complications.

A study published in the Oct. 7 issue of the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation suggests increasing the dosage of aspirin does not increase its protective effects on the heart, and a low dose of aspirin, such as a baby aspirin, may be enough for most to reap the benefits of aspirin therapy.

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