Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beneficial Effects of Aspirin in Cardiovascular Disease

On November 15, 2009, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) researcher Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., the first Sir Richard Doll Research Professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science will present at the American Heart Association's Annual Scientific Sessions meeting in Orlando, FL, the first data in humans to show that all doses of aspirin used in clinical practice increase nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is released from the blood vessel wall and may decrease the development and progression of plaques leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Hennekens was the first to demonstrate that aspirin can prevent a first heart attack or a first stroke.

The abstract, titled "Usual Doses of Aspirin Increase Nitric Acid Formation in Humans" is published in the November 2009 issue of Circulation, the official journal of the American Heart Association.

FAU researchers conducted a randomized trial in patients at high risk of a first heart attack or stroke and assigned them to different doses of aspirin for 12 weeks. All doses produced highly significant beneficial effects on two important and well documented markers of nitric oxide formation.

"While the ability of aspirin to decrease the clumping of blood platelets is sufficient to explain why the drug decreases heart attacks and strokes, these data suggest a new and novel mechanism," said Hennekens.

Co-author and project director of the trial and affiliate clinical instructor of clinical science and medical education, Wendy Schneider, MSN, RN, said, "We are proposing new and longer term research to test whether this hypothesis has clinical or public health relevance."

The American Heart Association recommends aspirin use for patients who've had a myocardial infarction (heart attack), unstable angina, ischemic stroke (caused by blood clot) or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or "little strokes"), if not contraindicated. This recommendation is based on sound evidence from clinical trials showing that aspirin helps prevent the recurrence of such events as heart attack, hospitalization for recurrent angina, second strokes, etc. (secondary prevention). Studies show aspirin also helps prevent these events from occurring in people at high risk (primary prevention).

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