Aspirin reduces cardiovascular risks in men and women -- but differently

Aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events -- a combined endpoint including stroke, heart attack and death due to cardiovascular disease -- in both men and women, according to a new meta-analysis of more than 95,000 patients by a Duke University Medical Center cardiologist.

However, the researchers found, the major reasons for the risk reduction differed between the sexes. For men, aspirin lowered the risk of a heart attack, while in women, aspirin reduced the risk of a stroke.

The use of aspirin, however, also carries an increased risk of bleeding among both sexes, the study found. The results of the new analysis lead the researchers to recommend that all patients and physicians should discuss the benefits and drawbacks of regularly taking aspirin as a preventative measure against cardiovascular events.

"Aspirin is a drug that has been used for many years it is well-understood, effective, inexpensive and widely available," said Duke cardiology fellow Jeffrey Berger, M.D, first author of a paper published Jan. 18, 2006, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He performed much of the research while at Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, under senior author cardiologist David Brown, M.D.

"This is good news because many of the past studies of the effect of aspirin in preventing cardiovascular events looked only at men, so physicians were reluctant to prescribe aspirin for women because there was little data," Berger continued. "But now, the combined data of recent trials involving women demonstrates that women can benefit just as much from aspirin therapy as men."

Berger emphasized that more healthy men and women who can tolerate aspirin should be taking the medication for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that fewer than five percent of the population suffers from the known gastrointestinal side effects of aspirin or are allergic to it, meaning that many more seriou

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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