Does an aspirin a day keep heart attacks and strokes away? It's a debate that's been going on for years.
Now more and more focus is being put on how the old wonder drug helps and hurts women. To keep her heart healthy, Patricia Kapsalis's daily routine involves her taking an aspirin.
"I take an aspirin every day for a year and a half," says Patricia Kapsalis who is on an aspirin regimen.
The 76 year-old's cholesterol and blood pressure were getting high, putting her at a higher risk of heart attack. So she started a regimen of low-dose aspirin.
"I felt it was certainly worth a try," explains Kapsalis.
A recent study shows more than 200,000 women like Patricia who were recommended to take aspirin every day, less than 50 percent actually did.
"And the questions abound as to why that is the case," explains Cardiologist Dr. Alan Ackermann.
Cardiologist Alan Ackermann says women 65 and older with heart disease risks might benefit from an aspirin-a-day. He also believes aspirin's a great way to protect against another killer.
"It has the potential to reduce a first stroke by as much as 40 percent," says Dr. Ackermann.
He says the drug which can help prevent dangerous blood clots is best as secondary prevention for those who've already had a heart attack or stroke. A Dutch study found 50 healthy women would need to take aspirin for 10 years for just one to be helped.
A recent study out of Italy suggests using low-dose aspirin as primary prevention results in a 55 percent increase in major brain or stomach bleeding. Researchers in London find for every 162 people who took aspirin, it prevented just one non-fatal heart attack, but caused two serious bleeding episodes.
Ackermann says you have to be careful with the drug. "Speak to your physician and know the truth about what is beneficial and what is not."
That's just what Patricia did. And she's sticking to her low-dose aspirin routine.
"I have three grandchildren,” says Kapsalis. “I certainly want to keep myself around as long as I can."
The bottom line? Doctor Ackermann says if you are at moderate or high risk for heart disease or stroke, low-dose aspirin could be beneficial. For anybody else, it could do more harm than good.
Once again, before you start an aspirin regimen talk to your doctor. If you're already on one, don't quit without consulting your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, stopping suddenly could trigger a blood clot.
And if you're taking aspirin because you've had a heart attack or have a heart stent, quitting the regimen can lead to a life-threatening heart attack.
THE ASPIRIN ARGUMENT: WHAT WOMEN NEED TO KNOW!
THE NEW ASPIRIN STUDY: Published in the June 6, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study Association Of Aspirin Use With Major Bleeding In Patients With And Without Diabetes showed that aspirin was associated with a 55% relative increase in the risk of major bleeding, a number that translates to two excess bleeding events for every 1000 patients treated annually. This bleeding rate is roughly equal to the number of major cardiovascular events avoided in primary prevention for patients with a 10-year risk in the range of 10% to 20%, report the researchers. senior investigator Dr. Antonio Nicolucci said that for those with a very high baseline risk, such as those with a 10-year risk greater than 20%, aspirin will likely yield benefits that outweigh the harms. (Source: theheart.org)
CLEAR BENEFITS OF ASPIRIN
Aspirin has been proven to help women and men in these situations:
* During a heart attack. Chewing an aspirin (one full-strength or two baby aspirins) can limit your chances of dying from the attack or having another soon.
* After a heart attack or ischemic stroke. Taking a low-dose aspirin (81 mg) every day can help prevent a second heart attack or stroke and lessen your chances of dying of cardiovascular disease.
* If you have stable chest pain, peripheral artery disease, diabetes, or other signs of atherosclerosis. Taking a low-dose aspirin every day can help prevent a heart attack or stroke and reduce your chances of dying of cardiovascular disease.
IF ASPIRIN IS RIGHT FOR YOU, WHAT'S THE BEST DOSE TO TAKE?
Your doctor will discuss what dose is right for you. Very low doses of aspirin - 75 milligrams (mg), which is less than a standard baby aspirin - can be effective. Your doctor will usually prescribe a daily dose anywhere from 81 mg - the amount in a baby aspirin - to 325 mg (a regular strength tablet). If you have had a heart attack or have had a heart stent placed, it is very important to take aspirin and any other blood thinning medications exactly as recommended.
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