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Study: Aspirin's Role In Treating Heart Attacks, Strokes May Be Harmful To Some Patients

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - For years we've been told aspirin was a good preventative medicine for heart attack and stroke, but times have changed with other treatments now widely available.

Researchers now say for patients who've had a heart attack, stents, or stroke, aspirin is very important, but for people who don't have heart disease taking the medication may be harmful, reports CBS2's Marc Liverman.

Aspirin user 70-year old Margaret Ragucci suffered a stroke a few weeks ago.

"I'm sitting there watching TV, go to get up and my leg wouldn't work," she said. "I was in the three hour window for somebody having a stroke. They were able to administer the medication and I walked out of there."

Doctors put Ragucci on an aspirin regiment - a common treatment for someone who's suffered a stroke – but a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds too many Americans are taking aspirin and don't need it.

"Aspirin is not as helpful as we thought it was," said Dr. Harmony Reynolds, cardiologist at New York University. "That's probably because other preventive treatments like blood pressure lowering and cholesterol lowering have become more important."

According to the study, 29 million people in U.S. are taking aspirin for prevention even though they don't have heart disease, and many are taking aspirin without their doctor knowing.

Reynolds says aspirin is useful for heart and stroke patients to prevent blood clotting, but for some patients - especially those over 70 - it can be harmful.

Aspirin can cause bleeding, and it raises the risk of bleeding from the stomach or anywhere else in the body.

Ragucci was grateful she received treatment right away.

"I could've ended up in a wheelchair, thank God we've advanced," she said.

With a baby aspirin a day and statin medications, she's hoping to get back to her workout routine.

Researchers suggest that health care providers ask their patients about aspirin use and counsel them about the benefits and harms.

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