Daily aspirin therapy may lower the risk of a heart attack, but new research shows that the treatment isn’t right for everyone. Furthermore, the study found that millions of people are popping the pill daily without a doctor’s recommendation—a habit that health providers are warning against.
If a patient has had a heart attack or stroke, doctors will likely recommend they take a daily aspirin, unless there are other complicating situations such as having a severe allergy to the drug or history of bleeding.
In other circumstances, if patients have a high risk of having a first heart attack, their doctor will likely recommend aspirin after weighing the risks and benefits.
More or less, aspirin medications are that needs to be prescribed by a physician and not by people themselves who are following a dated concept.
In a new study conducted by Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, it was found that about 29 million people aged 40 and older were taking an aspirin a day despite having no known heart disease in 2017, the latest data available.
Meanwhile, nearly half of people over 70 who don’t have heart disease — estimated at 10 million — were taking daily aspirin for prevention, the researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.
About 6.6 million of that statistic claimed that they were doing so on their own, an act that doctors warn to stop doing.
“Many patients are confused about this,” said Dr. Colin O’Brien, a senior internal medicine resident at Beth Israel who led the study.
While taking an occasional aspirin or two is safe for most adults to use for headaches, body aches or fever, daily use of aspirin can have serious side effects. Notably, doctors recommend that people shouldn’t start regular aspirin therapy on their own because the drug can cause serious complications such as internal bleeding that could ironically result in more cardia-related problems.
Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding.
But this clotting can also happen within the vessels that supply your heart with blood. If your blood vessels are already narrowed from atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries — a fatty deposit in your vessel lining can burst.
Then, a blood clot can quickly form and block the artery. This prevents blood flow to the heart and causes a heart attack. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets — possibly preventing a heart attack.
However, the blood-thinning drug can also result in unwanted scenarios, specifically for people who shouldn’t be taking the medication daily.
Primarily, aspirin can increase the chances for strokes that are caused by a burst a blood vessel. While daily aspirin can help prevent a clot-related stroke, it may increase your risk of a bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke).
Furthermore, there are also Gastrointestinal bleeding to watch out for. Daily aspirin use increases your risk of developing a stomach ulcer. And, if you have a bleeding ulcer or bleeding anywhere else in your gastrointestinal tract, taking aspirin will cause it to flow more, which can lead to a life-threatening extent.
In some cases, people are allergic to the drug. If a person is allergic to aspirin, taking any amount of aspirin can trigger a severe allergic reaction.
“What we were somewhat surprised at is the high numbers of older adults that were taking aspirin who don’t actually have existing heart disease or stroke, and that’s because it’s been known that the older that you are, the higher the risk of bleeding from aspirin,” said Dr. Christina Wee, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the obesity research program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was senior author of the new research.
“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 general public “really should talk to their doctor to see whether they should or should not be on aspirin to prevent heart disease.”
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin therapy if you’re age 50 to 59, you’re not at increased bleeding risk, and you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke of 10 percent or higher over the next ten years.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend aspirin therapy for the prevention of heart attacks in people who haven’t already had a heart attack, stroke, or another cardiovascular condition.
In March, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology set out new guidelines for people who should be taking a daily aspirin.
In the release, it states that people over 70 or young and doesn’t have heart disease should avoid daily aspirin for prevention. Only certain people aged 40 to 70 years who don’t already 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.