Aspirin's Heart Benefits Varies by Sex
The benefits of taking aspirin regularly differs between men and women, reducing the risk of heart attacks in men while reducing the risk of strokes in women, researchers said on Tuesday.
A review of six previous studies found regular aspirin use lowered women's risk of suffering a stroke by 17 percent compared to nonusers, while not having any effect on their chances of having a heart attack or of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Aspirin's potent benefit for men was to reduce their chances of a heart attack by 32 percent, while having no impact on their risk of stroke or cardiovascular death.
"This is good news because many of the past studies of the effect of aspirin in preventing cardiovascular events looked only at men, so physicians were reluctant to prescribe aspirin for women because there was little data," said study author Dr. Jeffrey Berger of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Now, doctors can recommend aspirin to women, though he added that "more research is needed to better understand (gender) differences in cardiovascular responses to aspirin."
Overall, women who took low dosages of aspirin had a 12 percent lower risk of suffering a heart event -- either a heart attack, a stroke or death due to cardiovascular disease -- compared to those who did not take it. The drug conferred a 14 percent lower risk to men.
Aspirin is frequently recommended for people already suffering from heart disease, but the studies Berger looked at involved a total of 95,456 participants with no prior heart problems.
Much of Berger's research on the study published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association was done while he was at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
He cautioned that while aspirin has clear benefits, it also carries the potential risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and should "never replace other ways of reducing cardiovascular risks, such as eating a proper diet and exercising."
Consulting a doctor might head off trouble for the estimated 5 percent of people for whom aspirin could pose problems such as bleeding or an allergic reaction.
Routine use of aspirin for an average of 6.4 years led to 2.5 major bleeding events per 1,000 women in the study and 3 events per 1,000 men.