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CNN Medical Unit: Daily Dose (What's this?)
Get the reporting, research and analysis behind on-air stories straight from the CNN Medical Unit, led by chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Does aspirin work for everyone?

    • About 36 percent of adult U.S. population takes aspirin for heart-disease prevention
    • Some patients are aspirin-resistant, which puts them at risk for heart problems
    • Aspirin is recommended for all artery disease patients
  • Bottom Line: Discuss with your doctor whether you should take aspirin to fight heart disease risk
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Aspirin helps protect a person from heart attacks by breaking up platelets in the blood.

Aspirin helps protect a person from heart attacks by breaking up platelets in the blood.

Overview

Millions of Americans take aspirin to lower their risk for heart disease. Research in the British Medical Journal, released in January 2008, shows taking aspirin to fight heart disease may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone.

Questions and answers

What did this study find?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent: About one-third of the adult U.S. population --more than 50 million people -- take aspirin to prevent heart disease. Aspirin has clear benefits for a lot of people in reducing cardiovascular risk. It's also cheap, relatively safe, and easy to use. But for years, doctors have noticed that it tends to work better for some patients than others. Canadian researchers looked at 20 studies involving patients with cardiovascular disease. Twenty-eight percent of the patients were classified as aspirin-resistant.

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Being resistant to aspirin makes patients four times more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or even die from a pre-existing heart condition, compared to non-resistant patients. We're seeing more and more evidence that with aspirin, a universal approach isn't the best.

How do you know if you're aspirin-resistant? What can you do then?

Gupta: Aspirin helps protect a person from heart attacks by breaking up platelets in the blood that could form blood clots. Clots can block blood vessels and lead to chest pain or heart attack. Some people, particularly women, are resistant to aspirin's blood-thinning effects. A urine test is available that identifies high levels of a biological marker found in people who are resistant to aspirin. These people may benefit from alternative blood-thinning therapies or treatments that more effectively block blood clot formation. The Canadian researchers found that taking other drugs to thin the blood, such as clopidogrel or tirofiban, did not benefit patients in the study. The best advice is to talk to your doctor about using aspirin to cut your risk for heart disease.

Background
Read the original study, published in the British Medical Journal on January 26, 2008.

All About Heart Attacks

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