Patients who take 75mg of aspirin a day, or other blood-thinning medication, are more likely to survive if they have a stroke, according to a study published in the journal Stroke.
The researchers found that people taking aspirin or other anti-clotting drugs such as warfarin or rivaroxaban are also more likely to return to their homes and keep their independence.
People classified as ‘at risk’ of a stroke are usually prescribed blood-thinning medication at a low dosage, but the researchers found that 46 per cent of the 541,000 American stroke patients in their study had not been taking these drugs before they had a stroke.
They found that those who do are 18 per cent less likely to die before they leave hospital and 13 per cent less likely to have a disability caused by the stroke.
In Britain a quarter of stroke patients are expected to die within a year, and 50 per cent of survivors are left with a disability.
The study’s lead author, Professor Phyo Myint, said: ‘This is an important area of research because stroke has high mortality during hospitalisation and is the leading cause of disability globally.
‘To the best of our knowledge, this study is the largest to examine the association between prior anti-thrombotic use and important and relevant outcomes in patients admitted with an acute ischemic stroke which is responsible for about 75 per cent of all strokes.
‘The results of this study show us that the benefit of the use of preventive medications which aim to thin the blood to prevent clot formation before stroke.
‘We found the person who is on these drugs may still gain benefit of taking them even if the person developed a stroke due to blockage of brain artery by a blood clot,’ he said.
‘I would hope that the findings of the study will ensure the appropriate use of these agents at a population level. This will have substantial benefit to patients with stroke and health economy in global scale through reduction of death and disability.’
Dr Richard Francis of the Stroke Association told the Daily Mail that the findings ‘add weight to the growing body of evidence that such drugs can play an important role ensuring fewer people experience the devastating impact of a stroke.
‘In addition, strokes can be prevented by taking regular exercise, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and having regular blood pressure checks.’
Although the medical profession has long recommended the use of blood-thinning medication in people at risk of heart attacks and strokes, it is interesting to see data suggesting that not only do they reduce the risk of strokes, but that they may also reduce the severity of the strokes that do happen.
There are other factors to take into consideration — for example, the fact that people taking blood-thinning medication may be more likely to be under medical review and therefore receiving medication to control other risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol.