Taking Aspirin for Your Heart? Here’s How to Make It Even More Effective

You may not be doing all you can do to safeguard your health, according to a new study.

aspirinfunnyangel/shutterstockTaking daily aspirin is often recommended for people with an elevated risk of heart disease—it’s among the essential ways you can care for your heart. Now it looks like combining the prescription drug Xarelto (or, more specifically, its generic equivalent, rivaroxaban) with aspirin is significantly better than aspirin alone after a heart attack, according to research presented at the 2017 annual gathering of the members of the European Society of Cardiology, a not-for-profit society of medical professionals.

The research, called COMPASS, was led by the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Canada, was funded by aspirin manufacturer, Bayer AG, and its results will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It involved 27,400 people with stable coronary or peripheral artery disease from 33 countries worldwide, who were randomly assigned to one of the following treatments:

  • 2.5 mg of rivaroxaban twice-daily plus 100 mg of aspirin once-daily
  • 5 mg of rivaroxaban twice-daily
  • 100 mg of aspirin once-daily

Doctors examined the patients at one and six months, and then every six months for the next two to three years. What the researchers found was that the combination of rivaroxaban plus aspirin reduced the heart attacks and other heart disease complications by 25 percent. Rivaroxaban complements aspirin because it’s an anticoagulant, while aspirin is an anti-platelet drug. Previous research had focused exclusively on anti-platelet blood thinning with only limited success, John Eikelboom, MD, one of the co-lead researchers, told EurekAlert.

The findings are important because of the approximately 300 million people around the world living with cardiovascular disease, five to 10 percent have a stroke or heart attack every year. Although aspirin reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events by 19 percent, the rivaroxaban-aspirin combination is clearly superior—so much so that the clinical trial was stopped early so that all of the people who volunteered could begin taking the combo.

A second paper from the same study, which will be published in The Lancet, shows that rivaroxaban-plus-aspirin also protects patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). That study looked at 7,470 patients with PAD, finding that the drug combination reduced cardiovascular events by 28 percent and damage to limbs by 46 percent.

One potential drawback for some paitents is that the thinning action of the drugs can lead to bleeding problems. If you’d like to add rivaroxaban (Xarelto) to your daily aspirin regimen, you’ll need a prescription from your doctor, with whom you should discuss your bleeding risks and concerns. Here are some great tips to help you find a doctor you can trust.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers health, fitness, yoga, and lifestyle, among other topics. An author of crime fiction, Lauren's book The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.