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Aspirin Resistance Won’t Deter Stroke Risk

Aspirin in various forms has been used as a pain reliever for more than 2,000 years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It has been refined and improved upon throughout the centuries to arrive in its present day form as a simple, inexpensive pain reliever. However, one of its most amazing and beneficial effects was not known until the mid 20th century.

By the 1950s, doctors were using aspirin not only for pain relief, but for its newly discovered, seemingly "miraculous" ability to reduce heart attack and stroke. Aspirin was able to reduce the tendency of blood to clot. This reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with heart disease, a condition in which plaque builds up in blood vessels, irritating the inside lining of the vessels. Eventually plaque ruptures inside the vessels and blood clots form as the vessel tries to repair itself. These clots can travel to the brain, lodge in an artery and cause a stroke, or travel to the heart and block off blood flow within a vessel that leads to a heart attack.

Taking aspirin as prescribed by a doctor reduces levels of thromboxane, making blood less sticky and less likely to clot, therefore, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. At least that's how it is supposed to work. Researchers and doctors have learned that like blood pressure medication or cholesterol medication, aspirin doesn't always work the same way in everyone. Some people are resistant to the anti-clotting effect of aspirin.

An estimated 50 million Americans take an aspirin every day to prevent heart attack and stroke. Some patients are on aspirin to lower the risk of a first heart attack or stroke – called primary prevention; other patients who have already had a stroke or heart attack are on aspirin to lower the risk of another event. It is important to understand, is that as many as 25 percent of all individuals have some degree or type of resistance to the effect of aspirin, sometimes referred to as "aspirin resistance."

It's important to note that being resistant to aspirin may include people who:

  • Don't take their aspirin when they are supposed to.
  • Take aspirin in combination with other drugs or herbs that can make aspirin less effective.

Either way, these patients are resistant to the beneficial effects of aspirin. Numerous clinical studies, including a 2007 report in the British Medical Journal, show that being resistant to aspirin makes patients four times more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or even death from a pre-existing heart condition.

Research also reveals that people respond differently to the same dose of aspirin. There are several blood tests, as well as a simple urine test, that can measure aspirin effect. These tests, depending on accuracy and reliability, can give doctors a good idea of how well the aspirin their patients are taking is working.

Testing patients for aspirin effect allows doctors to modify the therapy of individuals who are not responding to aspirin by changing their dose or prescribing another antiplatelet medication. Solving the problem can even be as simple as making sure a patient does not take his or her aspirin medication at the same time as another drug such as ibuprofen, which can interfere with the effect of aspirin.

Of course, it's always important to check with your doctor before making any changes to your aspirin therapy or before starting on aspirin therapy. It's also important to take control of your health and understand the treatments and tests available to give you and your doctor the best chance in the fight against stroke and heart attack.

By: Gordon Ens, Clinical Affairs Director of Corgenix Medical Corporation, developer of the Aspirin Works Test

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"As many as 25 percent of all individuals have some degree or type of resistance to the effect of aspirin, sometimes referred to as ‘aspirin resistance."

The History of Aspirin

  • 1300 BC Ancient Egyptians used recipes containing myrtle leaves, a form of salicylic acid, to relieve back pain.
  • 400 BC Hippocrates, a Greek physician, prescribed the bark and leaves of the willow tree to relieve pain and fever.
  • 1899 Bayer distributes aspirin powder to physicians to give to their patients. Aspirin becomes the No. 1 drug worldwide.
  • 1915 Aspirin becomes available without a prescription and was manufactured in tablet form.
  • 1988 The FDA approves aspirin for reducing the risk of recurrent myocardial infarction (MI) – or heart attack – preventing recurrent mini strokes in men.
  • 2003 More than 80 million aspirin tablets are consumed daily by Americans, the majority to prevent heart attack and strokes.
  • 2005 More than 100 billion tablets of aspirin are produced worldwide each year.
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