• Users of anti-clotting drugs are more likely to recover their independence
  • People at risk of a stroke are advised to take drugs which thin their blood
  • 152,000 people suffer a stroke in the UK each year with many after effects 

Ben Spencer Medical Correspondent For The Daily Mail

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Taking a quarter of an aspirin tablet a day slashes the risk of someone dying if they have a stroke, experts have found.

A major study involving more than 500,000 stroke patients found those who had taken anti-clotting drugs such as aspirin or warfarin were more likely to survive.

People who had taken the drugs as a precaution were also more likely to return home and recover their independence following a stroke.

Most people who are at risk of a stroke – including those who are diagnosed with heart disease or have a history of a heart attack – are recommended to take ‘anti-thrombotic’ drugs, which thin their blood or lower their risk of a clot.

People who had taken anti-clotting drugs – such as aspirin – as a precaution for strokes were also more likely to recover their independence

These include taking low-dose aspirin of 75mg a day – roughly a quarter of the standard 300mg tablet – or anti-clotting drugs such as warfarin or rivaroxaban.

But the British-led researchers found 46 per cent of 541,000 US stroke patients tracked over three years had not been taking these drugs before the attack.

Of these, a third had a medical history including a previous stroke, heart disease or a murmur, which meant they should have been prescribed the drugs.

Some 152,000 people suffer a stroke in the UK each year, with many of them suffering brutal disabilities as a result.

Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is cut off – either by a clot in a blood vessel or by bleeding in the brain.

This starves the brain of vital oxygen, killing off brain cells.

A quarter of patients in Britain die within a year of a stroke, and of survivors, half are left with disability, which can include paralysis, speech problems and personality changes.

The research team, led by Aberdeen University and involving experts from Harvard Medical School, found patients who had taken the anti-thrombotic medicines were 18 per cent less likely to die before they even left hospital.

They were 15 per cent more likely to be independently mobile at the time of discharge and 13 per cent less likely to be disabled as a result of their stroke.

Study leader Professor Phyo Myint, clinical chair in medicine of old age at the University of Aberdeen, said: ‘This is an important area of research because stroke has high mortality during hospitalisation and is the leading cause of disability globally.

‘To the best of our knowledge, this study is the largest to examine the association between prior antithrombotic use and important and relevant outcomes in patients admitted with an acute ischemic stroke which is responsible for about 75 per cent of all strokes.

‘The results of this study show us that the benefit of the use of preventive medications which aim to thin the blood to prevent clot formation before stroke.

Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is cut off – normally by a clot in a blood vessel (pictured)

‘We found the person who is on these drugs may still gain benefit of taking them even if the person developed a stroke due to blockage of brain artery by a blood clot.’

He added: ‘I would hope that the findings of the study will ensure the appropriate use of these agents at a population level. This will have substantial benefit to patients with stroke and health economy in global scale through reduction of death and disability.’

Dr Richard Francis of the Stroke Association, said: ‘This large study found that people who had taken drugs which reduce the formation of blood clots, such as aspirin, prior to their stroke were less likely to die during their hospital treatment and less likely to be disabled as a result of their stroke.

‘These findings add weight to the growing body of evidence that such drugs can play an important role ensuring fewer people experience the devastating impact of a stroke.

‘In addition, strokes can be prevented by taking regular exercise, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and having regular blood pressure checks.’

Experts warned people should consult their GP before deciding to regularly take aspirin or other drugs, as they come with side effects.

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