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Low-Dose Aspirin to Prevent First Heart Attack or Stroke? Not So Fast
Date:1/10/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- For years, people have been told that low-dose aspirin can help reduce their risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or cancer even if they are healthy. Now, a new evidence review calls this advice into question.

Low-dose daily aspirin therapy does not reduce risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to a new study in the Jan. 9 online edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine. However, experts not affiliated with the study caution that there is not a simple one-size-fits-all answer, and that anyone currently taking low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk for a first heart attack or stroke should talk to their doctor before they stop.

The analysis conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom included nine studies and more than 102,000 participants who were followed for about six years. Daily low-dose aspirin resulted in a 10 percent reduction in heart attack or stroke, mainly driven by a reduction in nonfatal heart attacks. There was no reduction in death from heart disease, stroke or cancer seen among people taking low-dose aspirin. And the review confirmed aspirin's risk for serious bleeding events.

The study only looked at aspirin as primary prevention -- preventing a first heart attack or stroke. By contrast, secondary prevention refers to staving off a recurrence or worsening of a preexisting condition such as heart attack or stroke. Individuals should still take low-dose aspirin for secondary prevention, the authors and outside experts agree.

"Taken in the aggregate, the modest benefit of aspirin on patients without established cardiovascular disease has to be carefully balanced against the excess risk caused by the therapy," said Dr. Jeffrey Berger, director of cardiovascular thrombosis at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "Because aspirin is an over-the-counter drug, widely available a
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