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Heart Disease Health Center

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Aspirin Won't Prevent 1st Heart Attack in Women

Low-Dose Aspirin Reduces Stroke in Women, but Vitamin E Has No Benefit

Weighing the Risks of Aspirin Therapy

For people who have had heart attacks, low-dose (81 mg-325 mg) aspirin is still recommended as a way to reduce risk of second heart attacks. "And that recommendation is for men and women," she says. Also, for someone having a heart attack -- man or woman -- the recommendation is still to take an aspirin to limit the damage of the attack.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke, is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease is responsible for more than 900,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Aspirin can stop blood clots from forming, and block blood flow to the heart and brain, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Otherwise, Ridker and Buring say that the decision to take aspirin "should be a decision between a woman and her doctor, who can weigh the risks and benefits."

For women over the age of 65, it appears that the benefit of stroke prevention with aspirin's use may outweigh the risk of bleeding, says Buring. Not surprisingly, given the increased bleeding risk associated with aspirin use, women taking aspirin had more gastrointestinal bleeding episodes than women taking the placebo.

American Heart Association's Take

The American Heart Association responded to the study findings with the following statement pointing to their guidelines for aspirin use:

"These guidelines included recommendations for aspirin use among women at varying levels of risk, and advised that the routine use of aspirin in low-risk women was not recommended pending the results of ongoing trials."

Lori Mosca, MD, chair of the AHA's writing group for the guidelines, says the results of this study support the recommendations. She explains that while the new study results show a benefit for aspirin therapy in healthy women aged 65 or older, "we will have to balance this benefit with the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding and the potential for increasing hemorrhagic strokes."

Robert Harrington, MD, Duke University School of Medicine, tells WebMD that the study results provide guidance for women and their physicians. "The message is clear, aspirin does reduce stroke in women aged 65 or older, so we need to talk about prophylactic aspirin use in our women patients in that age group."

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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