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Just the Right Dose of Aspirin May Help Prevent Stroke in Women

WebMD Health News

Sept. 3, 1999 (Montreal) -- Less is more when it comes to using aspirin to prevent stroke, according to a new study led by Harvard researcher Hiroyasu Iso, MD, and published in the September issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study's investigators found that women taking between one and seven aspirin tablets weekly were less likely to have an ischemic stroke than women who did not take any aspirin. Ischemic is the most common type of stroke and usually results from a blood clot or other type of blockage in the arteries.

The researchers also found, however, that women taking more than 14 aspirin tablets a week were at a greater risk of having a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when one or more blood vessels in the brain rupture. A hemorrhagic stroke can cause damage to surrounding tissue, and is more likely to be fatal than an ischemic stroke.

Christina M. Burch, MD, who reviewed the study for WebMD, says that the results look promising for the health benefits of aspirin when it is used properly. But she says when a physician is deciding who should use it, and to what degree, there are several risk factors to weigh.

"Do what the doctor tells you," she advises consumers eager to take advantage of aspirin's health benefits. "If [a doctor] evaluates your particular risk and says, for you, low dose aspirin ... will help this particular wolf from coming in your door, listen. This [study] is more evidence to prove that we do know what we're talking about, at least about this." Burch is an assistant professor of neurology at the Souers Stroke Institute at St. Louis University Health Sciences Center.

Nearly 80,000 women between the ages of 34 and 59 were involved in the study. They completed questionnaires every 2 years regarding their medical and personal history, including how frequently they took aspirin. The authors write that it is not yet clear whether the findings apply to men as well as women, and more research needs to be done.

Burch tells WebMD that the relatively low risk associated with aspirin in this trial is reassuring, but risks do exist. "[Aspirin] is not like taking vitamins," she says. "This is not a nonmedicine, this is not a nondrug, and it's not magic. If you are interested in good preventative health maintenance, this is something to discuss with your physician rather than seeing if you can pretend that an aspirin is an apple a day."

This research received funding from the National Institutes of Health and a research fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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