Q: I have read about the benefits of aspirin for the prevention of heart attacks but have hesitated to take it regularly because of my diabetes. Is aspirin safe in people with diabetes?
A: A study of 3,711 diabetic patients between the ages of 18 and 70 found that daily aspirin, compared with a placebo, produced a small but significant decrease in the frequency of fatal and non-fatal heart attacks over a five- to seven-year period. There was no difference between the two groups in the overall death rate. These results are similar to earlier reports on the effects of aspirin in individuals without diabetes.
The protection against heart attacks was the same in men and women for all types of diabetes. No harmful effects of aspirin were detected. Side effects occurred just as often in the group on placebo as in those treated with aspirin.
The study recommends aspirin treatment for persons with diabetes because they are at greatly increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Aspirin treatment had no beneficial effect on the development of eye disease (retinopathy) or kidney disease, two common and serious complications of diabetes.
ADr. Margolis is professor of medicine and biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and associate dean for faculty affairs at the school.