Despite hundreds of clinical trials, the appropriate dose of aspirin to prevent myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke is uncertain. In the US, the doses most frequently recommended are 80, 160, or 325 mg per day. Because aspirin can cause major bleeding, the appropriate dose is the lowest dose that is effective in preventing both MI and stroke because these two diseases frequently co-exist. Five randomized clinical trials have compared aspirin with placebo or no therapy for the prevention of stroke and MI. These trials varied with regard to the dose of aspirin, the duration of treatment, and, most important, the populations selected for study varied in their baseline risk of stroke and MI. In men, 160 mg/day consistently lowered the risk of MI. In women, doses of 50 mg, 75, and 100 mg/day did not significantly decrease the risk of MI; therefore, the appropriate dose in women must exceed 100 mg/day. The appropriate dose for the primary prevention of stroke in men and women has not been established. Doses of 75 and 100 mg/day have been ineffective in men and women. The appropriate dose must be at least 160 mg/day. The lowest dose to prevent recurrent MI or death in patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) is 75 mg/day. In acute MI the lowest dose is 160 mg/day. In patients with a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), 50 mg/day has been shown to be effective in men and women. In acute stroke, 160 mg/day is effective in preventing recurrent stroke or death. The risk of major bleeding with 160 mg/day is the same as with 80 mg/day: 1 to 2 cases per 1000 patient years of treatment, and the risk of fatal bleeding is the same with 80 and 160 mg/day. These studies indicate that the most appropriate dose for the primary and secondary prevention of stroke and MI is 160 mg/day.
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