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Heart Disease Health Center

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Aspirin Benefit Differs for Men, Women

Aspirin Prevents Heart Attack in Men, Stroke in Women; Boosts Ulcer Bleeding Risk for Both

Daily Aspirin? You Decide continued...

But a better way to weigh the benefit against the risk is to look at a person's individual risk for heart attack or stroke. Risk goes up as people accumulate risk factors for heart attack or stroke. These factors include:

  • Age. Starting at age 45, stroke/heart attack risk increases each year.
  • Family history. A close relative who had a heart attack or stroke at a relatively young age raises your own risk.
  • Diabetes. People with high blood sugar levels -- whether or not they have full-blown diabetes -- are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Smoking. If you've ever smoked cigarettes, you have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Robert J. Myerburg, MD, director of cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, notes that daily aspirin definitely benefits people who've already had a heart attack. Its use to prevent a first heart attack, he says, remains controversial.

"The important thing is not to confuse the long-term preventive benefit of aspirin with its use at the time of onset of a heart attack -- that is a completely different story," Myerburg tells WebMD. "In preventing a first heart attack, over the long term, you see only a small benefit."

How small? Laurence S. Sperling, MD, director of the Emory Heart Center risk reduction program, says people who take daily aspirin have 0.1% to 0.2% fewer heart attacks per year than those who don't take aspirin.

"For women, there is not nearly as profound an effect as in men -- and women's major benefit is stroke prevention, not heart attack prevention," Sperling tells WebMD. "So for people at low to intermediate risk of heart attack, I would not be glib about taking an aspirin a day."

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