Aspirin may not be the best medication to prevent strokes in people with a common heart problem, according to government experts in the UK.
The new guidance released by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on Wednesday warned against prescribing aspirin to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation (AF). According to the experts, aspirin can do more harm than good.
Atrial fibrillation is a common heart condition that leads to irregular heart beat and fast heart rate, further increasing the risk of strokes. The heart condition is found more common in men aged above 65 years. People with high blood pressure and atherosclerosis are at greater risk of developing the condition.
The experts, on the other hand, recommended AF patients to replace their regular aspirin with warfarin, another anticoagulant used to protect against strokes, heart attacks and blood clots or the new generation of oral anticoagulants approved by NICE called the novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs), recently.
"Strokes caused by atrial fibrillation are both common and preventable but only if the abnormal heart rhythm is identified in the first place and if effective drugs are given to prevent blood-clot development," Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, told BBC.
"The revised NICE guidance reflects accumulating evidence that warfarin and the newer anticoagulants are much more effective than aspirin at preventing strokes. This does not mean that aspirin is not important and effective at preventing heart attacks and strokes in other circumstances. Patients who are unclear on whether or not they should continue to take aspirin should speak to their doctor."
Aspirin has long been prescribed to prevent heart attack and other heart-related problems. Countless studies in the past have shown that taking a daily dose of aspirin at night highly effective in protecting against morning time heart attacks. In November last year a study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013, found that bedtime aspirin thinned blood and helped reduce platelet activity by 22 units.
Through their new guidelines, the NICE expected to prevent thousands of lives claimed by the deadly disease every year. "Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of stroke because it often leads to the formation of blood clots. We know that AF increases the risk of strokes by up to five times. It's estimated that the condition causes around 12,500 strokes each year," Professor Mark Baker, NICE's Director of Clinical Practice, said in a news release. "We also know that that around 7,000 strokes and 2,000 premature deaths could be avoided every year through effective detection and protection with anticoagulant drugs that prevent blood clots forming."
How to know that you have atrial fibrillation, some symptoms:
- Feel chest pain, weakness and confusion
- Lowered blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulties in breathing
Some home remedies that help manage the condition as provided by Mayo Clinic:
- Follow healthy lifestyle and heart –healthy diet
- Lower salt intake
- Stop smoking
- Remain active
- Limit alcohol intake