Aspirin could save the lives of hundreds of South Africans every year.
This is the belief of Prof Barry Jacobson, president of the South African Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, who addressed the media recently at a conference in Johannesburg. The conference focused on the role of aspirin in the management of heart disease.
“At the moment, I believe that we are under-utilising the drug. As long as it is prescribed responsibly, the benefits of the drug far outweigh its side effects,” Jacobson said.
He urged fellow specialists to consider responsible aspirin prescriptions for patients deemed at high risk of a stroke or heart attack. He also encouraged people who thought they might be at risk to visit their health-care providers for a cardiovascular check-up.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally. An estimated 17,5 million people died of heart disease in 2005. In South Africa, it's the second biggest killer after HIV/Aids.
Many studies point to beneficial role
Aspirin's role in the treatment of heart disease has been demonstrated through several research studies. A meta-analysis, which combined the results from 145 randomised controlled trials, established that aspirin reduced non-fatal heart attacks by 34% and all-cause mortality by 16%. The non-fatal stroke prevention rate was also established to be approximately 30%.
Aspirin inhibits the platelets' ability to clot. In people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, this effect could save them from death, severe brain damage and the knock-on effects of a heart attack or stroke.
The vast majority of people don't experience any side effects when using aspirin, but gastrointestinal bleeding is sometimes reported. Some people are also allergic to the drug, which can sometimes exacerbate the symptoms of asthma.
Lifestyle changes as important
Commenting on the wider use of aspirin, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, Robert de Souza, said the well-known drug has its place, but that behavioural changes are also an important step in the management of the disease.
“There is no doubt that aspirin has a place in a holistic approach to avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but it is vital that it is not seen as a 'fix-all' remedy,” De Souza said. He added that giving up smoking, eating more healthily, doing regular exercise and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels – as well as taking the daily aspirin where appropriate – are all needed to reduce a person's risk.
To highlight the role aspirin could play in reducing the number of heart attacks and strokes in South Africa, Disprin CV100 has teamed up with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa to launch Heartfeld Commitment, an initiative that will empower the public with knowledge, allowing them to make a lifelong commitment to their heart health.
- (Health24, June 2007)
Aspirin safer at lower doses
Aspirin may ward off cancer