Daily high-dose aspirin therapy may support heart health in type 2 diabetics

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among individuals with type 2 diabetes, but a simple over-the-counter medication may significantly reduce an individual's risk of experiencing a heart attack.

A new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that diabetics who had experienced a cardiovascular episode were significantly less likely to suffer a second if they took high daily doses of aspirin.

The findings are important because they could represent a simple way for diabetics to drastically cut their risk of a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin is widely available at any supermarket or drug store and is generally inexpensive.

For the study, researchers from the University of Alberta analyzed the results of 21 previously published investigations regarding the heart health benefits of daily aspirin regimens. They looked specifically at information collected from participants who had type 2 diabetes and had previously suffered a heart attack or stroke.

The results showed that those who took daily doses of 325 milligrams of aspirin were 23 percent less likely to die from a second cardiovascular episode. However, the researchers observed no benefit for individuals who took lower doses.

Scot Simpson, PharmD, who led the investigation, said that there is evidence to suggest 60 percent of diabetics die from cardiovascular disease. However, these new findings indicate that it may be relatively simple to control the risk of heart attacks and strokes. He added that pharmacists should be involved in the treatment of diabetics, as they are in a position to recommend aspirin therapy.

"The pharmacists' best role for chronic disease management is working proactively with physicians and patients," said Simpson. "Whether that means working directly with the physician, and consulting about prescribed medications, or when the patient is deciding about whether or not to take Aspirin as part of a treatment plan, pharmacists can have a significant, positive impact."

Heart disease and the threat of heart attack and stroke are some of the biggest concerns for individuals with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association says that diabetics have double the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event, compared to the general population.

Diabetics are more prone to heart conditions for several reasons. First, type 2 diabetes and heart disease share many common risk factors, including poor diet and lack of physical exercise. Second, persistently high levels of blood sugar may damage tissue throughout the body, particularly blood vessels.

Given these risks, supporting the cardiovascular health of individuals with type 2 diabetes is critically important. Much research has focused on pharmaceutical or lifestyle methods, but the new findings are exciting because they a suggest widely available, easily accessible avenue for achieving improved heart health.

The results could enable millions of people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their risk of suffering a potentially life threatening cardiovascular event and maintain their quality of life without worrying about a heart attack or stroke.
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