Are you taking Aspirin to prevent potential heart attack or stroke? A new study suggests that healthy person should avoid long term use of Aspirin as internal bleeding can outweigh the benefits of Aspirin. It was suggested that the daily dose of Aspirin should be advised to the persons who have had heart attack or stroke.
What is Aspirin and why is it recommended for heart attack?
Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, also known as ASA. Most common use of Aspirin is to relieve minor pains due to its analgesic properties, to reduce fever due to its antipyretic properties and also used as anti-inflammatory drug.
The property of Aspirin that enhances its use against heart attacks is the antiplatelet or anti-coagulate effect. Due to this property of Aspirin, it prevents formation of blood clot. Thus, Aspirin is recommended as preventive medication and advised in low doses for longer term to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clot formation in the people that are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease due to factors such as age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Aspirin is also recommended to persons, who already had heart attacks, to prevent further heart attacks.
What are the major side effects of Aspirin?
Major side effects of Aspirin include gastrointestinal ulcers, stomach bleeding and tinnitus (ringing of ear in absence of external sound).
What is the new study?
The study was conducted by Prof Colin Baigent and his colleagues at the University of Oxford in London. The group took a deep dive at the data generated by six primary prevention trails involving 95,000 patients with low to average risk of heart attack; and sixteen trials involving 17,000 patients at high risk as they already had a heart attack or stroke. Data on heart attack, strokes and major bleeding was documented from these trials. The findings were reported in medical journal The Lancet.
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What were the major findings?
Data clearly indicated that low-risk group reduced their risk of non-fatal heart attacks by fifth but no difference in the risk of stroke or death from vascular events was found (risk of serious vascular event dropped to 0.51% from 0.57% per year). Also, in this low-risk group, risk of internal bleeding increased by around a third (risk of bleeding increased from 0.07% to 0.1% per year).
The other group of patients that had heart attack or stroke and were at risk of having another attack, benefits of taking Aspirin clearly offset the chance of adverse effects.
Why was Aspirin used for preventive treatment of heart attack?
Professor Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the issue had been confusing for GPs and patients. Furthermore Aspirin is cheap and available over the counter. So, many patients would buy Aspirin either on the advice of their GP or as self-preventive medication. It is to be noted that Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say Aspirin is indicated for primary prevention to reduce the risk of a first non-fatal heart attack in people deemed at risk by their physicians. Packaging of aspirin also suggested the same.
As stated by lead investigator, Prof Baigent that there was not clear evidence that long term use of Aspirin was beneficial over the side effects it posed in millions of healthy men and women, worldwide.
Hopefully, physicians will weigh pros and cons of prescribing Aspirin on case by case basis rather than blindly giving aspirin to person having risk of heart disease.