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Taking Baby Aspirin Daily To Prevent Heart Attack? Not So Fast!

The 2017 National Health Interview Survey found that 23.4% of adults aged 40 year and older (which equates to about 29 million individuals) who did not have cardiovascular disease reported that they were taking aspirin daily to prevent heart disease.

Of these people, some 6.6 million were doing so without a doctor’s recommendation. Equally concerning was that nearly 50% of those aged 70 years and older with no existing or previous cardiovascular disease were also taking aspirin to prevent heart disease.

For years the general public perception was that taking a low dose aspirin daily would prevent heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular episode. While it’s true that aspirin reduces the “stickiness” of blood platelets which reduces the blood’s clotting ability, the benefit from taking a daily low-dose aspirin is offset by the danger of internal bleeding and other side effects in people considered to be at low or moderate risk for heart disease.

One study in particular found aspirin had no obvious benefit for healthy people older than 70 but found evidence of harm, which is why the new prevention guidelines strongly discourage aspirin as a protective therapy among these older adults.

The new guidelines from the American Heart Association warning against the daily use of low dose aspirin in healthy individuals do not apply to people who already have had a stroke or heart attack, or who have undergone bypass surgery or a procedure to insert a stent in their coronary arteries.

Individuals that already have cardiovascular disease should continue to take low-dose aspirin daily, or as recommended by their health care provider, to prevent another occurrence, said Dr. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland.

But in three significant studies published last year and one major analysis released this year that looked at 10 other studies, the benefit from taking a daily low-dose aspirin was offset by the danger of internal bleeding and other side effects in people considered to be at low or moderate risk for heart disease.

The benefit of taking aspirin for the majority of otherwise healthy adults just doesn’t outweigh the bleeding risks nowadays. Aspirin may still be considered for very select high-risk adults ages 40-70 who are not at increased risk for bleeding, but only when advised by their doctor.

If you’re currently taking a low dose aspirin daily for the prevention of a cardiovascular episode, you should consult with your doctor before continuing this regimen. You may be causing yourself more harm than good.

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