Two recent studies suggest that the common over-the- counter painkiller “aspirin” could protect postmenopausal women from dying of heart disease and stroke. The research further highlights aspirin’s apparent ability to protect the cardiovascular system. Researchers involved in the study labeled aspirin as a “lifesaving therapy.”
One study proved that the painkiller reduces death rates in women who have heart disease. It looked at nearly 9,000 women, aged 50 to 80, whose heart disease was “stable.” About half of them were taking aspirin every day: 30% took 81 mg and 70% — the vast majority — took 325 mg a day. Researchers kept tabs on their health for well over six years, and discovered that overall:
–Women taking aspirin were 17% less likely to die from any cause. –Women taking aspirin were 25% less likely to die from heart disease.
It didn’t seem to matter what dose of aspirin was taken. The 81 mg dose was just as effective as the 325 mg dose.
Researchers need to confirm that finding and figure out the optimal dose to take — not unnecessarily high, not too low. This is important, as higher doses can be linked to side effects, most commonly bleeding of the stomach. Women with heart disease are advised to take aspirin unless there is a medical reason why they shouldn’t.
Another study illustrated the merits of aspirin, showing that it can lower the risk of stroke significantly. The catch? It’s only beneficial for women. For this study, researchers pooled data from six trials that involved 95,000 people without coronary artery disease (about 50,000 were female). The patients were randomly assigned and got either aspirin at a low dose or placebo. Incredibly, the data led to nearly identical percentages as in the first study:
–Women using aspirin had an average 17% reduced risk of stroke. –Women using aspirin had an average 24% reduced risk of getting ischemic strokes, which are the most common kind of stroke.
Incredibly, the facts for men are opposite — they face a 70% increased risk of getting a hemorrhagic stroke if taking regular aspirin. The researchers couldn’t explain the gap between men and women, and call for more studies to explain it. Could our hearts or circulatory system be different in some way?
Aspirin can soften pain; reduce fever, swelling, and redness; and help prevent blood from clotting. That last action is linked to its abilities detailed in the two studies above. Moreover, aspirin is often used to lessen the risk of suffering a second heart attack or stroke. It is best taken with meals in order to prevent stomach upset.