Regular use of aspirin becoming more common
■ However, studies suggest the risk-prevention benefits differ for men and women.
By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Feb. 20, 2006
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A growing number of people are taking aspirin to reduce their risks of cardiovascular events, according to a study in the January American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers analyzed data from the 2003 and 1999 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys and found that the use of aspirin at least every other day by healthy individuals older than 35 had increased by 20%. It also increased by 12% among those who already had cardiovascular disease and by 36% among those who were diabetic.
"The trend is encouraging, especially in times when the prevalence of other cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes, is increasing," said Dr. Umed Ajani, lead author and an epidemiologist with CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
This study also found that women were less likely than men to take aspirin regularly.
Meanwhile, another study, this one in the Jan. 18 Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested that the actual benefits of this behavior vary by gender. The meta-analysis by researchers at Duke University in Durham, N.C., found that regular aspirin use by healthy individuals reduced the risk of stroke in women and the risk of heart attack in men.
The authors pooled six trials with nearly 100,000 individuals. They concluded that women experienced a 17% reduction in stroke when taking aspirin regularly but had no reduction in heart attacks. Men had a 32% reduction in heart attacks but had no fewer strokes. Aspirin use in both genders increased the risk of a major bleeding event by 70%.
"While we believe that many more people could benefit from taking aspirin, it is important for patients and their physicians to discuss the issue and weigh the benefits and potential drawbacks," said Jeffrey Berger, MD, lead author and a cardiology fellow at Duke. "Also, aspirin should never replace other ways of reducing cardiovascular risks, such as eating a proper diet and exercising."