GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Aspirin has been used as a pain reliever for more than 100 years. And since the seventies, popping a pill a day has been doctors’ orders for patients with heart disease. Now, the largest study to date casts some doubt on the benefits of taking an aspirin a day for certain heart patients.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Nearly half of all adults have risk factors.
For years, aspirin has been prescribed as prevention for those with a history of heart disease. It prevents blood from clotting.
But now, a new study casts some doubt on years of conventional wisdom.
Interventional Cardiologist, Anthony Bavry, MD, and colleagues at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, examined health histories from 33,000 patients with hardening of the arteries. In patients who had suffered a heart attack or stroke, they found aspirin was helpful. But, in patients with hardening of the arteries but no prior heart attacks, the aspirin had no benefits.
“In those patients, it’s always been assumed that aspirin was beneficial and it’s widely recommended as well from our practice guidelines,” Dr. Bavry told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Bavry said patients should still take aspirin if they suspect they are having a heart attack or stroke. But, he also said patients with hardened arteries and no heart attack history should talk to their doctors about aspirin’s benefits and risks.
Dr. Bavry explained, “There is risk. Aspirin is associated with bleeding; oftentimes, in the form of gastrointestinal bleeding.”
So, for some cardiac patients, the best prevention may still be the hardest; not a little white pill, but a change in diet and exercise.
Researchers found one group did get benefit from taking aspirin, those patients who had a coronary bypass, or a stent, but no history of stroke or heart attack. Doctor Bavry said those patients should stay on aspirin therapy.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.
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AN ASPIRIN A DAY: MAYBE YES, MAYBE NO?
BACKGROUND: About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Several medical conditions can increase your risk for heart disease. One major risk factor is high blood pressure. It is often called a “silent killer” because many people do not notice symptoms. High cholesterol is a term used for high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, which are considered “bad” because they can lead to heart disease. The risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is two to four times higher than adults who do not have diabetes. By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar normal and lower your risk for these conditions.
TREATMENT: Aspirin has been used as a pain reliever for more than 100 years. Since the 1970s, it’s also been used to prevent and manage heart disease and stroke. In fact, studies have shown a low-dose aspirin each day for at least 10 years can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 10%. It helps the heart by easing inflammation. Plaque may be more likely to cause a heart attack or stroke if it’s inflamed. Aspirin blocks the enzyme called, cyclooxygenase, which makes your body less likely to produce chemicals that cause inflammation. Aspirin can also help prevent blood clots. Chemicals in the blood trigger events that cause blood clots. When aspirin stops those chemicals, it helps slow the formation of the clots. This is important because they can clog the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle and the brain, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Aspirin can benefit those with coronary artery disease, those who have had a heart attack, those who have had bypass surgery, angioplasty or stent placement, and those who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or ischemic stroke.
NEW STUDIES: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended daily aspirin therapy if you’re age 50 to 59 years, you’re not at increased bleeding risk, and you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke of 10 percent or greater over the next 10 years. Although aspirin has been recommended in the past for certain groups of people without a history of heart attack, there’s some disagreement among experts about whether the benefits of aspirin outweigh its potential risks. The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend aspirin therapy for the prevention of heart attacks in people who haven’t already had a heart attack, stroke or another cardiovascular condition. Guidelines are varied between organizations, but they’re evolving as more research is done. The benefits of daily aspirin therapy don’t outweigh the risk of bleeding in people with a low risk of heart attacks. The higher your risk of heart attack, the more likely it is that the benefits of daily aspirin outweigh the risk of bleeding. In women, daily aspirin therapy may be more effective at preventing strokes than heart attacks.
* For More Information, Contact:
Bill Levesque, PR
University of Florida