Many postmenopausal women with cardiovascular disease don't use lifesaving aspirin therapy

ORLANDO, Feb.18 Low-dose aspirin therapy has been shown to reduce the chances of a secondary heart attack or stroke in women who already have cardiovascular disease (CVD). Yet, less than half of women with CVD use this over-the-counter, relatively inexpensive therapy, researchers reported today at the Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease and Stroke.

"We know that aspirin therapy helps women who have cardiovascular disease live longer and feel better. Our study sought to characterize the extent to which women use this easily accessible therapy, as well as the disparities that exist between different groups of women," said lead author Jeffrey S. Berger, M.D., chief resident at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Berger and colleagues examined data from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, which tracked nearly 100,000 post-menopausal women. The researchers singled out 8,928 women in the study who had a history of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. The women had reported if they were on aspirin and other therapies.

Studies have shown that about 95 percent of the women who have cardiovascular disease should be taking aspirin, as well as other medications, to help ward off secondary heart attacks and strokes. Less than 5 percent of women with CVD might not be eligible for aspirin therapy because of side effects, such as bleeding, Berger said.

The researchers found that 4,101 (46 percent) of the women with CVD were on low-dose aspirin therapy. Only 43 percent of women with prior stroke were on aspirin therapy. And among the 2,230 patients with documented heart attacks, only 54 percent reported using aspirin.

"Ideally, the percentage of women with a known history of cardiovascular disease who take aspirin should be above 90. To find such low numbers was quite discouraging," Berger said.

Looking at the data in more detail, the researchers found that women with existing CVD

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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