Additionally, the researchers found that aspirin increases the risk of bleeding, or hemorrhagic, strokes in men with no effect on women. For the more common form of stroke known as ischemic stroke, in which blood flow to a portion of brain is blocked, aspirin had no effect on men but reduced the incidence in women.
The seemingly conflicting results of this study, along with the results of other studies, should lead to more intensive research into the differences between the genders when it comes to cerebrovascular disease and drugs use to prevent it, the researchers said. They emphasized that both healthy men and women who can tolerate aspirin should be taking the medication, since this analysis demonstrated its effectiveness in preventing strokes in women, and it is already known to reduce heart attacks in men.
"While we've known that aspirin is effective in preventing stroke in patients who already have cerebrovascular disease, very little is known about its abilities as a primary prevention method in otherwise healthy people," said Duke cardiology fellow Jeffrey Berger, M.D., who presented the results of his analysis Nov. 14, 2005, at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association in Dallas.
"Until the advent of the Women's Health Study (WHS), clinical trials included primarily men and found that aspirin had a positive effect in reducing the risk for heart attacks, but had no effect on stroke," Berger continued. "So when the WHS found a positive effect for aspirin on stroke prevention in women, it raised the question of whether or not gender has an impact on aspirin's ability to reduce the risk of stroke."