Aspirin prevents strokes but not heart problems for most women, study shows
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Middle-age women can cut their risk of strokes but not heart attacks by regularly taking low doses of aspirin, and the pills help prevent both problems in women 65 and older, a major study found. The results are opposite what is known about aspirin in men, where its benefit for stroke is limited and its ability to prevent heart problems is legendary. Since women proportionately suffer more strokes and men more heart attacks, this is generally good news, specialists said. Researchers also found that taking vitamin E did no good for women of any age, confirming a study last fall that concluded supplements of this nutrient could even be harmful. The new information comes from the Women’s Health Study, the first rigorous, scientific test of whether long-term use of aspirin or vitamin E made a difference in cardiovascular risk in females. Previous research has been almost exclusively in males. Findings were reported Monday at an American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando. They also were being published online by the New England Journal of Medicine and will be in the March 31 print edition. The study has “major public health implications,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the research with the National Cancer Institute. “In contrast to men, aspirin did not reduce the risk of nonfatal or fatal heart attacks in women of all ages but did so in women over age 65,” she said. The study was led by Julie Buring, Dr. Paul Ridker and others at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Many have been consultants to aspirin makers, but the companies did not run the federally funded study. Bayer Healthcare supplied aspirin for it and the Natural Source Vitamin E Association supplied that nutrient. In the study, 40,000 female health professionals 45 and older were randomly assigned to take either fake pills or 100 milligrams of aspirin – slightly more than the 81-milligram “baby aspirin” pills commonly sold – every other day. After 10 years, aspirin users had a 17 per cent lower risk of stroke, and a 24 per cent lower risk of strokes caused by blood clots, owing, researchers believe, to aspirin’s well-known anti-clotting properties. Women 65 and older got even more benefit: They were 30 per cent less likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot and 34 per cent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Aspirin’s benefits were greatest for nonsmokers and former smokers, and didn’t vary among women who did or did not use hormones after menopause. But the benefits did come with a cost. Stomach or intestinal bleeding requiring a blood transfusion occurred in 127 women on aspirin and in 91 women taking dummy pills. “Is it manageable? Yes. Is it worth it? That’s an individual decision,” Nabel said, adding that anyone considering taking aspirin should talk with his or her doctor about the relative risks.
source: Canadian Press