Researchers Advise Millions to Stop Taking Aspirin for Heart Health

Researchers Advise Millions to Stop Taking Aspirin for Heart Health

Are your patients following a low-dose aspirin regimen thinking it will reduce their risk of stroke, heart attack or heart disease? According to researchers and the 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, they should stop immediately. Three recent studies have found that aspirin therapy may not be benefiting them. And, in some cases, it could be doing harm. 

While taking aspirin is still recommended for many people who already have heart disease or who have previously had a heart attack or stroke, healthy individuals don’t need to take a daily dose like their doctors previously urged them to do.

Making sure healthy patients know they should now stop taking aspirin is the new challenge facing healthcare providers. The Associated Press recently reported that 29 million “healthy” Americans, with no known heart disease, were taking daily aspirin for heart health in 2017. Of those, 6.6 million were doing it on their own, in other words, no doctor recommended it, they just heard it was good for heart health. 

And, for decades, the medical community was telling them that was true, recommending they take 75 to 100 milligrams per day. However, three surprising studies have found only marginal benefit in taking aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack. It’s the downside of aspirin therapy that now concerns researchers and doctors — regular aspirin users report “markedly more digestive-tract bleeding”.   

The findings from these studies prompted the change to the 2019 ACC/AHA guidelines in March, which now recommend: 

  • Low-dose aspirin might be considered for primary prevention of heart disease in select high-risk adults aged 40-70 years who are not at increased bleeding risk.

  • Low-dose aspirin should not be administered on a routine basis for primary prevention of heart disease among adults >70 years.

  • Low-dose aspirin should not be administered for primary prevention among adults at any age who are at increased bleeding risk.

The hope is that health care providers will talk to patients and re-educate them about when aspirin therapy is beneficial and when it is not recommended.

To learn more, check out the latest guidelines here.