Bedtime aspirin could cut morning heart attack risk
20th November 2013
aspirinThe best time to take an aspirin to reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack when you wake up is at night prior to going to sleep, according to researchers involved in a new study. Low-dose aspirin tablets are taken daily by millions of Brits who are high-risk of heart disease or other heart events as aspirin is effective at thinning the blood; meaning it is less likely to form a deadly clot. A trial comprising of 290 heart patients found that it was more effective to take a 100mg aspirin tablet prior to going to bed instead of first thing in the morning. The 290 participants were told to take the low-dose aspirin each morning for a duration of three months, followed by three months of taking the tablet at bedtime. Each person was monitored after each block of three months for their blood pressure and platelet levels. Blood pressure did not seem to change according to what time the aspirin was taken, but the painkiller did manage to reduce platelet activity (a risk factor for heart attack). Platelets are small, irregular-shaped cells that are present in the blood and form clots to prevent bleeding; for example stopping the blood flow from a wound. However, platelet activity is usually at its highest during the morning which means you have a much bigger chance of having a heart attack either shortly prior to or shortly after waking up in the morning. Previous studies have shown heart attacks are more common, in addition to more severe, at between 6am and midday, with up to 20% more damage to hearts during these hours. Annually in the UK there are an estimated 103,000 people who suffer a heart attack and around 1.3 million live in the UK currently after having previously experienced one. As previous studies have shown aspirin can reduce the risk by 10 per cent, many people who suffer with a heart attack are often advised to take a daily low-dose tablet. Aspirin makes it more difficult for platelets to join together to form clots, as discovered in the findings by researchers at the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, demonstrating that taking an aspirin before bedtime may help to reduce this peak period for platelet activity. If taken before bedtime, the researchers found that aspirin could help to bring down platelet levels by up to 22 units. Lead researcher Dr Tobias Bonten, of Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said: “This simple intervention – switching aspirin intake from morning to bedtime – could be beneficial for the millions of patients with heart disease who take aspirin on a daily basis.” Some British health experts stress you should not purely act on the basis on this study however. Maureen Talbot, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “We know aspirin can be vital in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Research into the best time to take a daily dose of aspirin is an interesting idea, but we would need to see much larger and longer studies before a change in practice can be recommended. For now, keep taking your daily aspirin as recommended by your doctor. If you have any concerns about your medication, talk it through with your GP.”