Regular Aspirin Use May Decrease Risk of Death in Women
April 09, 2007
By: Erin Coakley for Uterus1
While it is established that men and women who have had a heart attack or a stroke benefit from daily low-dose aspirin use, taking aspirin as a preventive measure has been more controversial. Now a new study, published in the March 2007 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that regular aspirin use may benefit healthy women by reducing the risk of death from any cause, but most especially from heart disease-related causes.
|Tips for Taking Aspirin|
Take each dose of aspirin with a full glass of water. Take with milk, food, or an antacid to lessen stomach upset.
Use enteric-coated aspirin, which has a special coating to protect the stomach. These can be taken with milk or food – but not antacids – and should not be broken, chewed, or crushed.
Avoid alcohol while taking aspirin. If you consume three or more alcoholic drinks a day, consult your doctor before taking aspirin.
Before taking aspirin, talk to your doctor if you have an allergy to aspirin or NSAIDs, ulcers or bleeding in the stomach, liver, kidney, or heart disease, a bleeding or blood-clotting disease, or if you are pregnant.
If you experience side effects such as difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, uncontrolled fever, blood in urine, stool, or vomit, or seizures, stop taking aspirin and see your doctor.
Andrew Chan of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and his colleagues studied a group of 79,439 women in the Nurses Health Study. The study has followed a group of middle-aged and older women since 1976 who, at the beginning of the study, had no history of heart disease or cancer. Starting in 1980, Chan and his researchers asked the nurses if they used aspirin on a regular basis, and if so, how many pills they took each week. The women had to report back every two years until 2004. Of the nearly 80,000 women studied, 45,305 women reported taking no aspirin, 29,132 said they took low to moderate doses of aspirin, defined as one to 14 tablets a week, and 5,002 women took high doses of aspirin, or more than 14 tablets per week.
By the end of the 24-year study, 9,477 of the participants had died. Of these deaths, 1,991 were due to heart disease and 4,469 were from cancer. After taking into account other risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and weight, Chan concluded that women who took low to moderate doses of aspirin on a regular basis had a 25 percent lower risk of dying than those who did not report using aspirin regularly. The most significant reduction was seen in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. After taking aspirin for one to five years, women had a 38 percent lower chance of dying from heart disease. They also lowered their risk of dying from cancer, but only after using aspirin for 10 years. Researchers noted a reduction in death from lung cancer by 26 percent and from breast cancer by 32 percent, but these results were only seen following a 20-year period of aspirin use. Long-term aspirin use was most beneficial in older women and those with cardiovascular risk factors.
Although the results of this study are promising, they contradict prior research indicating that aspirin plays no role in reducing mortality rates. Most studies, such as the Women’s Health Study – which followed 40,000 women for 11 years – have not found aspirin to reduce the risk of death from heart disease, cancer, or other causes. One reason for this discrepancy may be that Chan’s study was only an observational one, which is not as reliable as a randomized controlled trial and cannot prove a cause and effect relationship.
Past studies have concluded, however, that survivors of a heart attack or stroke can prevent another one by taking a daily baby aspirin. Death from heart attack can also be avoided if aspirin is administered at the first sign of the attack. This is because aspirin blocks platelets from forming blood clots. The anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin may also play a role in preventing cancer. Since the results of the study are not definitive, it is important for every woman to consult with her doctor to determine if the benefits of regular aspirin use outweigh the potential risks, which include gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, and hemorrhagic stroke.
Last updated: 09-Apr-07