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Will an aspirin a day improve heart health? Target, U of M plan study to find out

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A large number of Minnesotans can expect to be quizzed about their aspirin use.

The Minnesota Daily reports a joint campaign between Minneapolis-based retail giant Target and the University of Minnesota is about to begin. The five-year University-led campaign, called Ask About Aspirin, will involve 50 Target stores across the state.

It's set to start in May, and the goal is to promote daily aspirin use. It's thought that could have an impact on heart health for the middle-aged. The partnership will advertise aspirin to patients in several forms, including billboards, radio ads and pamphlets in doctors’ offices.

The Star Tribune's story on the study noted organizers hope the research demonstrates that a daily aspirin, which costs just 2 to 3 cents, can prevent many cataclysmic cardiovascular events, which would ultimately save lives and millions of dollars in health care costs. The program targets men ages 45 to 79 and women ages 55 to 79 who are at moderate to high risk of heart attack or stroke.

The University of Minnesota has a website devoted to the project which offers a self-assessment for people who may benefit from taking an aspirin every day.

“By having the right people take aspirin and trying to prevent the wrong people from taking aspirin, we think we can safely … help the health of the entire state,” Alan Hirsch, lead on the study and adjunct professor in the School of Public Health, told the Daily.

The statewide study will also look at aspirin use in minority groups that tend to have higher rates of heart problems and use preventative aspirin less, said School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan.

“This is going to be something with national implications,” Finnegan said.

The campaign is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The Food and Drug Administration notes aspirin isn't a catch-all, however.

While there would be benefits if you're showing signs of a potential health issue, "the risks of long-term aspirin use may be greater than the benefits if there are no signs of, or risk factors for heart or blood vessel disease."

Side effects such as stomach bleeding, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, and some kinds of strokes are possible; the FDA says you should talk to your doctor before taking daily aspirin.

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