Study Links Aspirin to Reduced Stroke Risk

     (CN) — Aspirin could be the key to limiting a person’s risk of experiencing a stroke following a mini-stroke, according to research published Wednesday.
     The findings indicate that taking aspirin immediately after noticing the symptoms of a transient ischemic attack — a TIA or “mini-stroke” — or a minor stroke could lower the risk of a major stroke from 15 percent to about 70 to 80 percent.
     While aspirin is already recommended for people who have experienced a mini-stroke, the new findings highlight the importance of taking the drug as soon as possible, even before receiving treatment from a doctor.
     “Our findings confirm the effectiveness of urgent treatment after TIA and minor stroke — and show that aspirin is the most important component. Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke,” said Pete Rothwell, lead researcher and professor at the University of Oxford.
     The study was published in The Lancet medical journal.
     Researchers reviewed 15 aspirin trials involving about 56,000 stroke patients. The results of the trials showed that the benefits from taking the drug primarily occurred within the first few weeks after a person initially experiences a minor stroke or a TIA.
     The findings also have implications for public education. Public information campaigns have worked in getting more people to seek help sooner after a major stroke, but have been less effective in people who have had minor strokes or TIAs.
     “Many patients don’t seek medical attention at all and many delay for a few days. Half of recurrent strokes in people who have a TIA happen before they seek medical attention for the TIA,” Rothwell said.
     The symptoms of mini-strokes end within 24 hours — though generally they go away within an hour.
     Minor strokes lead to symptoms that last longer than 24 hours but less than a week. These symptoms are generally mild.
     Major strokes can have permanent effects and are often fatal.
     Rothwell says people should be encouraged to take aspirin if they believe they may have had a mini-stroke or a minor stroke, including if they have experience sudden-onset unfamiliar neurological symptoms.
     Taking aspirin in such a situation would be especially helpful if urgent medical care is unavailable.
     Dale Webb, director of research and information at the Stroke Association, welcomed the findings and said that the research is timely, as the international medical community and groups that focus on strokes are developing a new set of national clinical guidelines.
     “A TIA is a medical emergency and urgent neurological assessment must always be sought. The findings suggest that anyone who has stroke symptoms, which are improving while they are awaiting urgent medical attention can, if they are able, take one dose of 300 mg aspirin,” Webb said.

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