Many doctors prescribe aspirin to their heart patients to prevent them from having (sometimes another) a heart attack. But does this aspirin regimen really help?
A new study says that it probably does not.
CBS news reports on whether the aspirin regimen is effective and useful.
The study shows that older people may not be benefitting from it at all.
How was the study conducted?
The study had more than 14,000 participants. Researchers decided to focus on people aged 60 to 85, because they are more prone to heart attacks than any other age group.
“In the study, doctors randomly prescribed daily low-dose aspirin to older patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. They then tracked the patients to see whether they would experience fewer heart attacks or strokes compared with similarly high-risk patients who weren't taking aspirin,” according to Reuters.
What were the results?
Experts found no major difference in heart-related deaths or non-fatal heart attacks and strokes between people who took aspirin and those who did not. The patients were tracked for around five years.
Dr. Shimada who authored the study told Reuters, “It indicates that primary prevention with daily low dose aspirin does not reduce the combined risk in this population.”
The findings were just presented on November 17th at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. Most of the physicians there were quite impressed by the study’s findings.
But some doctors are still endorsing the aspirin method. Dr. Graziano, a professor from Harvard Medical School said patients should discuss whether or not they should discontinue their aspirin regimen with their doctors before taking any steps. He explained his opinion saying, “Patients need to discuss this with their doctor, because I think it's difficult to do that calculation of benefit and risk without consulting a health care professional.” He published a commentary with the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
However, some experts are saying that many doctors are biased as they get incentives from aspirin companies. Thus they suggest getting two or three opinions, perhaps from family doctors, or a doctor you know personally before making a decision.
Dr. Shimada explained the findings of the study in detail. He said that there appeared to be a trade-off in risks: people who did not take aspirin were at increased risk of ‘mini-strokes’ and chest pain (angina), while people taking aspirin were more likely to experience fatal bleeding.
Graziano seems to think that people should certainly stay on the aspirin regimen. He claims that the benefits of the regimen outweigh the risks. But many disagree with him about that.
The BBC also reported on heart attack related issues and how people can and should avoid heart attacks. The BBC links certain antibiotics to heart problems.
While aspirins are not always helpful neither are certain antibiotics. The BBC talks about a study that shows rates of a deadly heart infection have increased after guidelines advised against giving antibiotics to prevent it in patients who are already in the danger zone.
The BBC reports on the type of infection it warns about, “Infective endocarditis is a rare infection of the tissue that lines the chambers of the heart. It is hard for the immune system to fight and particularly dangerous in people who already have certain heart problems such as artificial valves or congenital heart disease. In these individuals, the risk of dying after one year can be as high as 50%.” U.S. and British guidelines still say to give the antibiotics to patients but many experts are saying to reevaluate this.