Heart Attack Study Says Women Should Think Twice About Aspirin As Prevention

Aaron Turpen - Author

Dec. 6 2014, Updated 1:23 p.m. ET

Studies have stated that taking low-dose aspirin can help lower risks of colon cancer, heart disease, and, by proxy, heart attacks. Physicians often prescribe low-dose aspirin as a preventive for those at risk of heart disease or attack, but a new study says that potential side-effects of taking aspirin regularly could outweigh any benefit received when the patient is a woman under age 65.

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Researchers in this new study found that women under 65 years of age are at higher risk of developing major gastrointestinal bleeding, and this risk may be higher than the lowered risk of heart attack that the daily regimen of aspirin may be giving. Part of this is the age group, as women under 65 receive less benefit from low-dose aspirin in alleviating heart attacks than do women over age 65. The study does not change the benefit gained for women who have already had a heart attack, however.

The Women’s Health Study, published in the journal Heart, analyzed long-term followup data from 27,939 women in randomized placebo or aspirin and calculated 15-year risks for cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Forbes reports that the results were marginal in the reductions but showed a higher increase in gastrointestinal bleeding. The differences were more marked for women over age 65.

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“..they state that “selective treatment” in women 65 and older may be reasonable.”

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The study found that women over age 65 did not see the same negative benefit for the intestinal bleeding versus heart attacks. This up-side was reported in Health Day as having validated the general consensus among most physicians regarding aspirin and heart attack risks.

The trial itself spanned fifteen years. The women involved were randomly assigned either a placebo or a low-dose (100mg) aspirin regimen every other day. Over the fifteen year span, about 11 percent of the women developed cancer, suffered a heart attack, had a stroke, or died of cardiovascular causes, says the study. Women who’d taken aspirin rather than a placebo saw a small decrease in cardiovascular or colon problems and an increase in the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Researchers for the Women’s Health Study estimate that for every 133 women on aspirin for the 15 year span, one would suffer gastrointestinal bleeding categorized as “major” (requiring hospitalization). One out of 29 women would have less serious gastro-related problems. 709 women, by comparison, would have to take aspirin to prevent colon cancer and 371 would have to regularly take aspirin to ward off heart attack or another cardiovascular complication.


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