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Heart Disease and Aspirin in Women

We hear a lot about the use of daily aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attacks in men over age 40. But what about its benefits for women? The American Heart Association (AHA) recently issued the following recommendations for aspirin therapy based on a woman's level of risk for coronary heart disease.

Studies in tens of thousands of women have demonstrated aspirin's potential to prevent heart attacks and their adverse consequences. The most compelling evidence comes from the Nurses' Health Study, one of the first large-scale evaluations of the effect of aspirin on women. This study found that women who regularly took aspirin reduced their risk of a heart attack by 32%. Studies in men and women have shown that daily aspirin use may reduce the risk of a second heart attack by 20% as well as may reduce the risk of death by 15% in those who have previously suffered a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin may also prevent death by up to 23% if taken when a heart attack is suspected and then continued for 30 days afterwards.

Studies have found that doctors often fail to prescribe aspirin, beta blockers and cholesterol lowering statin drugs to women who suffer heart attacks, even though the medications have been shown to prevent further heart attacks or other heart trouble. In fact, a recent study found that women at highest risk of heart attack were least likely to be taking aspirin.

Like any medical therapy, aspirin is not appropriate for everyone and may have side effects or adverse reactions of its own. Before beginning a daily, preventive aspirin regimen, all adults are encouraged to speak with their physicians. Relevant factors are a history of peptic ulcer, liver or kidney disease; any bleeding disorders; gastrointestinal or rectal bleeding; or taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Created: 3/15/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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