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Heart Disease Health Center

Aspirin Won't Prevent 1st Heart Attack in Women

Low-Dose Aspirin Reduces Stroke in Women, but Vitamin E Has No Benefit
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March 7, 2005 (Orlando, Fla.) -- Doctors often advise daily aspirin therapy in high-risk people to prevent heart attacks. However, a new study shows that when low-dose aspirin treatment is given to women it doesn't prevent first heart attacks in women.

Low-dose aspirin therapy reduces the risk of stroke in women aged 65 or older, but does not prevent first heart attacks, according to the results of a 10-year long study of 40,000 women.

Also, the study shows that taking vitamin E supplements for 10 years does not reduce either risk. It's a finding that researcher Paul Ridker, MD, of the Women's Health Study, tells WebMD, "should be just about the last word on vitamin E."

"We've had seven studies," says Ridker, "and none have shown a benefit so it really is better to eat your fruits and vegetables than to take a pill."

Ridker, and colleague July Buring, ScD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, presented the study at the American College of Cardiology 2005 Scientific Session.

At the same time, the low-dose aspirin study was published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study enrolled healthy women aged 45 to 80. Half of the women were told to take 100 mg of aspirin every other day and half took a dummy aspirin pill every other day. The women were given either 600 IU of vitamin E every other day or a vitamin E placebo every other day.

After 10 years, women taking aspirin had a 17% reduction in the risk of stroke. Yet there was no protection against heart attacks or death from heart disease in women taking aspirin.

While Ridker and Buring didn't express surprise about the vitamin E findings, both say they were surprised by the aspirin results. "This is the exact opposite of what we see in men -- aspirin prevents the risk of heart attack in men but has no impact on stroke," says Ridker.

Buring added that the new results pertain only to prevention of heart attacks or stroke in people who have not had a heart attack or stroke.

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