TAKING aspirin immediately after a “mini stroke” significantly slashes the risk of having a major one, a study found, The Sun reports. Patients are already advised to take a daily dose of the painkiller following such “warning events”.
But doctors say the effect has been drastically underestimated and now believe a pill can cut the risk of a major stroke by 80%. An Oxford University study of 56,000 people found almost all the benefits of aspirin came in the first few weeks.
Transient ischemic attacks – or mini strokes – mostly affect those aged over 60 and happen when the blood supply to their brain is cut off for a brief period. It may indicate a major one is on the way.
As a result, prompt medical attention and treatment is vital to prevent a far more serious blockage to the brain. Symptoms of a mini stroke include numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs – especially on one side of the body – and confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech.
It may also cause abrupt loss of vision in one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination, and a sudden headache without known cause.
Lead author Professor Peter Rothwell said: “Our findings confirm the effectiveness of urgent treatment after TIA and minor stroke – and show aspirin is the most important component. “Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke.
“This finding has implications for doctors who should give aspirin immediately if a TIA or minor stroke is suspected rather than waiting for specialist assessment and investigations.” Each year about 46,000 people in the UK suffer from a TIA for the first time.
One in 20 people will have a major stroke within two days of a mini-stroke and this figure rises to one in 12 within a week. Too often people wait a week or longer to receive medical attention after a TIA – or fail to see a doctor at all – leaving them at risk of suffering a serious stroke.
BBC politics presenter Andrew Marr, 56, had two mini-strokes before going on to have a major one. He said previously: “I was one of the thousands of people who dismissed the warning signs – simple ignorance.”
Aspirin is already given to people who have had a stroke or mini-stroke to prevent further ones after they have been assessed in hospital.
That reduces the subsequent risk by about 15%. Prof Rothwell added: “The risk of a major stroke is very high immediately after a TIA or a minor stroke – about 1,000 times higher than the background rate – but only for a few days.
“We showed previously that urgent medical treatment with a ‘cocktail’ of different drugs could reduce the one-week risk of stroke from about 10% to about 2% – but we didn’t know which component of the ‘cocktail’ was most important.
“One of the treatments we used was aspirin but we know from other trials the long-term benefit of aspirin in preventing stroke is relatively modest. “We suspected the early benefit might be much greater.”
Dr Dale Webb, director of research and information at the Stroke Association, said self-administering an aspirin as soon as possible could save lives. He added: “A TIA is a medical emergency and urgent neurological assessment must always be sought.
“We welcome this research which shows that taking aspirin after TIA can dramatically reduce the risk and severity of further stroke.
“The findings suggest that anyone who has stroke symptoms, which are improving while they are awaiting urgent medical attention can, if they are able, take one dose of 300 mg aspirin.”
The findings are published in The Lancet medical journal.