CHICAGO -- People who take aspirin regularly to reduce their short-term heart attack risk may also be substantially extending their lives, new research suggests.
The study of 6,174 adults with suspected heart disease found that regular aspirin users faced a 33 percent lower risk of dying during a follow-up period averaging three years than patients who didn't take aspirin.
The findings extend the known benefits for heart patients in taking aspirin at least every other day, which previous studies have shown can reduce the risk of heart attack, and short-term risk of death in heart attack sufferers, said the authors, led by Dr. Patricia Gum of The Cleveland Clinic.
"Up until now it really had not been very well established" that aspirin had long-term survival benefits for heart patients, said co-author Dr. Michael Lauer, clinical research director in the clinic's cardiovascular medicine department.
Dr. Lynn Smaha, a cardiologist at Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, Pa., said patients often ask him if they should take aspirin regularly.
For those who've had previous heart attacks, "it's pretty clear that that's an appropriate recommendation," said Smaha, past president of the American Heart Association.
Lauer stressed that patients should consult with their doctors about whether to start taking aspirin on a regular basis.
The greatest benefits were seen in patients who were physically unfit, over age 50 or who had known heart disease.