Aspirin and Heart Attacks
In March 2005, the results of a large study examining the effects of aspirin on heart attacks and heart disease in women were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that aspirin did not prevent first heart attacks or death from heart or blood vessel disease (known medically as cardiovascular disease) in women.
The greatest benefit appeared to be in women 65 and older. In this subgroup, low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of major heart or blood vessel problems by 26 percent. However, the benefits of low-dose aspirin therapy must be weighed against the risk of an increased chance of internal bleeding, a well-known side effect of aspirin use.
The bottom line is that many women, especially those 65 and older, may benefit from taking low-dose aspirin every other day to prevent a heart attack. But it is important for women to weigh the risks and benefits with their doctor. Above all, women, like men, should adopt the well-proven approaches that reduce the risk of heart disease:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Getting regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Controlling high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
For certain groups of people, taking aspirin for heart attack prevention makes sense. However, this drug can have serious side effects and may be harmful when mixed with certain other medicines. So for others, the benefits of aspirin do not outweigh the risks. Make sure to talk with your doctor about aspirin, heart attacks, and your particular situation. Together, you can decide what makes the most sense for you.