A racial gap in the heart attack benefits of aspirin?

By American Heart Association News

Tetra Images, Getty Images
(Tetra Images, Getty Images)

Taking low doses of aspirin may not reduce the risk of having a deadly heart attack for African Americans, according to a new study.

Low-dose aspirin did, however, reduce risk among white participants, particularly women. Several factors could be at play, researchers say.

"We think the reason aspirin use did not have a beneficial effect for African Americans could involve a different genetic response to aspirin therapy and poor control of other risk factors," said Dr. Rodrigo Fernandez-Jimenez, lead author of the study. He is a cardiologist and researcher at Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares in Madrid.

African Americans also may have been less likely to continue taking aspirin regularly or may have been taking over-the-counter medications that interact with aspirin.

Most available data show African Americans have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes compared to white people, Fernandez-Jimenez said. "However, previous studies didn't include enough black participants to determine if taking a low-dose aspirin for primary prevention of heart disease was useful for this group of people."

The results, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, are based on data from the Southern Community Cohort Study, an ongoing initiative tracking the risk factors for cancer and other major diseases. The study looks at more than 65,000 mostly low-income men and women ages 40 to 79 who live in the southeastern United States. More than two-thirds of the participants are African American and about two-thirds were at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke at the start of the study.

After 11 years, low-dose aspirin did not appear to reduce the risk of a fatal heart attack among African Americans, even when researchers looked only at people at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.

Guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, which helped fund the new study, advise against daily aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease. However, it may be appropriate for some people at higher risk.

"The need to better understand the association between aspirin use, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status and how these factors play a role in cardiovascular disease are important in light of these findings," Fernandez-Jimenez said.

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