MONDAY, Jan. 3, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Too few diabetic women use aspirin to reduce their risk of heart disease, claims a study by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
They noted that adults with diabetes have a high risk of cardiovascular disease, and that taking aspirin is an effective and inexpensive way to reduce the risk of first and subsequent heart attacks.
The researchers assessed the self-reported use of aspirin among diabetics over age 35 from 1997 to 2001. They found that in recent years there's been an overall increase in aspirin use among adults with diabetes. However, there was a significant difference in aspirin use between diabetic men and women that wasn't present a decade ago.
The study found 42 percent of adult men with diabetes who hadn't been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease took aspirin regularly, compared with 34 percent of women in the same category. Younger and middle-aged diabetics also took aspirin less often than older adults.
Among adults with diabetes and diagnosed cardiovascular disease, 83 percent of men and 65 percent of women reported that they took aspirin regularly.
There are a number of possible reasons for this disparity between women and men, the researchers said. Doctors may underestimate women's risk for heart attack and other cardiovascular disease events.
Doctors may also have concerns that aspirin is less effective for women than men in preventing cardiovascular disease events.
"Observational data suggest that aspirin prevents initial myocardial infarction in women, yet women were not well represented in early randomized trials of aspirin for the prevention of initial cardiovascular disease events," study co-author Dr. David W. Baker said in a prepared statement.
The low use of aspirin among younger adults with diabetes may be due to the belief of doctors and patients that the risk of cardiovascular events is too low at that point to justify regular use of aspirin, the researchers added.
"Health professionals may have a large role to play in increasing appropriate aspirin use among adults with diabetes. Simple interventions such as offering professional advice about aspirin may be adequate to increase appropriate usage, given that past studies have shown a strong association between current aspirin use and report of professional counseling," study co-author Dr. Stephen D. Persell said in a prepared statement.
The study appears in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The American Diabetes Association has more about aspirin therapy for people with diabetes.