Aspirin Helps Prevent First Heart Attack
New Proof that Benefits of Aspirin Therapy Outweigh Risks for Most
WebMD News Archive
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
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
Previous research has suggested that persons taking the highest
doses of aspirin therapy have a higher risk of developing bleeding
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.