- Many people take daily aspirin under the mistaken impression it will help their heart.
- But taking the drug every day can also increase the risk of bleeding and other cardiovascular issues.
- Experts say you should consult with a doctor about whether or not daily aspirin use is safe and recommended for you.
New research suggests that many adults in the United States who take low dose aspirin daily to prevent heart disease could be at risk of harm, writes Adrianna Rodriguez for USA Today.
Aspirin for heart attacks
For many years, healthcare providers recommended daily use of aspirin to help prevent heart attacks and stroke in people who have a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Then, in 2018, three studies revealed that aspirin isn’t always beneficial for health and can be associated with a higher risk of severe bleeding.
However, despite these findings, the idea that aspirin can help our heart health, especially for seniors, has lingered.
The recent study suggests that close to 6.6 million U.S. adults are taking aspirin every day to protect against heart disease without seeking medical advice. On top of that, about half of U.S. adults 70 and older who don’t have heart disease reported they take aspirin daily.
Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, report these findings in a recent Annals of Internal Medicine paper.
The lead author is Dr. Colin W. O’Brien, who is a fellow at Harvard Medical School and also a senior resident in internal medicine at BIDMC. The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
He and his colleagues note that a key message of their findings is that people without a history of cardiovascular disease who are taking aspirin daily to prevent heart attack or stroke should talk to their doctor about whether it is wise for them to continue.
To understand just how widespread aspirin use is, the researchers looked at the health data of 14,328 adults from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey.
The team assessed the participants’ responses for three questions:
- if a doctor or health professional ever recommended they take low-dose aspirin each day to manage heart disease
- if they’re now following this advice
- if they’re taking low-dose aspirin on their own to prevent or control heart disease
Who should avoid aspirin?
The study prompted the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to change their guidelines in March:
- People over 70 who don’t have heart disease – or are younger but at increased risk of bleeding – should avoid daily aspirin for prevention.
- Only certain 40- to 70-year-olds who don’t have heart disease are at high enough risk to warrant 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin daily, and that’s for a doctor to decide.
The Harvard study shows how many millions of people who were taking a routine aspirin in 2017 should take a second look at the guidelines.
“Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease,” cardiologist Roger Blumenthal, who was not involved in the Harvard study, said in a statement in March.
He added, “It’s much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin.”
Although people without a history of heart problems shouldn’t take routine aspirin, it’s still recommended for heart attack survivors.
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology say exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and eating a diet rich in vegetables and low in sugar and trans fats are among the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease.
“We hope that more primary care doctors will talk to their patients about aspirin use, and more patients will raise this with their doctors,” O’Brien said.
Did you subscribe to our daily newsletter?
It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe!
Source: USA Today