Health Care

Millions should stop taking aspirin for heart health

Millions should stop taking aspirin for heart health”

Millions of people who take aspirin to prevent a heart attack may need to rethink the pill-popping, Harvard researchers have reported. The trials led the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology to change clinical practice guidelines and to warn that any benefit from taking a daily low-dose aspirin would be more than offset by the danger of internal bleeding and other side effects in people considered to be at low or moderate risk for heart disease.

Another study also found that taking low-dose aspirin is associated with an increased risk for bleeding within the skull for people without heart disease.

Aspirin use is widespread among groups at risk for harm including older adults and adults with peptic ulcers - painful sores in the lining of the stomach that are prone to bleeding that affect about one in ten people.

"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. But this assumption has been challenged by a string of new studies.

Using data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative survey of USA households conducted before the release of the new guidelines, Wee and colleagues characterized aspirin use for primary prevention of CVD.

Wee and her colleagues analyzed responses from 14,328 survey participants whose average age was 57.5 years.

The study also finds that almost half of all Americans over 70 - that's about 10 million people - were taking a daily aspirin in hopes of staving off a heart disease diagnosis. Extrapolated, that would work out to be approximately 29 million Americans. In a research report published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) report on the extent to which Americans 40 years old and above use aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. And having a history of ulcers didn't seem to prevent these seniors from taking a daily aspirin.

- Individuals over 70 who don't have heart disease - or are younger; however, at increased risk of bleeding - should keep away from daily aspirin for prevention. Rather, she said, before making any changes, people should discuss the issue with their doctors.

"Our understanding of the benefits and harms of aspirin used to prevent heart disease is evolving and there have been recent changes in the evidence as well as a change in guidelines", she said.

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.

Pain relievers like aspirin have anti-coagulating effects - they're also called blood thinners - which physicians assume would help prevent vascular clots from forming.

A separate study recently published in JAMA Neurology should give those folks pause, Vaishnava said.

"Aspirin is frequently thought of as an over-the-counter medication and it may not appear on a patient's medication list", she said.

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