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VA research in action

An aspirin a day to prevent heart attack and stroke

August 13, 2018


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A 1983 VA Cooperative Study found that a single aspirin tablet a day reduced the risk of death from heart attack by 50 percent among male patients with unstable angina (pain caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart).

In addition to relieving pain and inflammation, aspirin can also prevent the formation of blood clots. Aspirin inhibits platelets from forming clots, which can get stuck in blood vessels where cholesterol and plaque may be blocking blood flow. Such clotting often leads to heart attack or stroke. Today, aspirin is a proven way to help prevent a second heart attack or stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health. Aspirin could also help prevent a first heart attack or stroke in some people.

This VA study was the first of over 100 studies on the effect of antiplatelet therapy in preventing heart attack and death in patients with unstable angina. The study has been cited countless times in support of using aspirin in these patients, and the therapy has become standard medical practice.

Principal investigator: H. Daniel Lewis, Jr., M.D.; Kansas City VA Medical Center

Selected publications:

Lewis HD Jr, Davis JW, Archibald DG, Steinke WE, Smitherman TC, Doherty JA 3rd, Schnaper HW, LeWinter MM, Linares E, Pouget JM, Sabharwal SC, Chesler E, DeMots H. Protective effects of aspirin against acute myocardial infarction and death in men with unstable angina—Results of a Veterans Administration Cooperative Study. N Engl J Med. 1983;309:396-403.

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