Background and Purpose - In secondary prevention, aspirin reduces risk of ischemic stroke. In primary prevention of stroke, however, the role of aspirin is uncertain, especially in women. Methods - In 1980, 79 319 women in the Nurses' Health Study cohort, 34 to 59 years of age and free of diagnosed cardiovascular disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, completed questionnaires that included information on aspirin use. Data on aspirin use were updated in 1982, 1984, and 1988. By 1994, after 994 231 person-years of follow-up, 503 incident strokes (295 ischemic strokes, 100 subarachnoid hemorrhages, 52 intraparenchymal hemorrhages, and 56 strokes of undetermined type) were documented. Results - There was no clear relationship between aspirin use and risk of total stroke; risk was slightly reduced among women who took 1 to 6 aspirin per week and slightly increased among women who took 7 or more aspirin per week. Women who took 1 to 6 aspirin per week had a lower risk of large-artery occlusive infarction compared with women who reported no aspirin use; after simultaneous adjustment for other cardiovascular risk factors and selected nutrients, the multivariate relative risk was 0.50 (95% CI 0.29 to 0.85, P=0.01). Women who took 15 or more aspirin per week had an excess risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage; the multivariate relative risk was 2.02 (95% CI 1.04 to 3.91, P for trend=0.02). The reduction in large-artery occlusive infarction with aspirin was of greater magnitude for older, hypertensive, or smoking women than for younger, nonhypertensive, or nonsmoking women; the elevation in subarachnoid hemorrhage with aspirin was also more apparent for older or hypertensive women than for younger or nonhypertensive women. Aspirin use was not associated with risk of other subtypes of stroke. Conclusions - These prospective data indicate that women who take 1 to 6 aspirin per week have a reduced risk of large-artery occlusive infarction, but those who use 15 or more aspirin per week have an increased risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage. This observational study suggests benefits of aspirin for ischemic stroke with low frequency of use and hazards for hemorrhagic stroke with high frequency of use, particularly among older or hypertensive women. Thus, the effect on total stroke will depend on the dose of aspirin and the distribution of stroke subtypes and risk factors in the population.
- Stroke classification