An Aspirin A Day Without Rx: Side Effects Surpass Any Benefits

An Aspirin A Day Without Rx: Side Effects Surpass Any Benefits

New guidelines, released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, suggest a daily low-dose aspirin for people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, or who have been diagnosed with heart disease - but not for those who are otherwise healthy.

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.

In March, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, indicating that a daily low-dose aspirin is no longer recommended as a preventative for older adults who don't have a high risk or existing heart disease. "Certainly there are harms associated with indiscriminate aspirin use for primary prevention in low risk populations".

Those from 40 to 70 years old should wait for doctor's orders before taking up daily aspirin, even if they are believed to be at high risk for heart disease.

"Nearly 30 million US adults aged 40 years or older use aspirin to prevent CVD [cardiovascular disease], including almost half of older adults without self-reported CVD and a quarter of adults without CVD but with a history of peptic ulcer disease", the investigators estimated from their findings. 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. Extrapolated, that would work out to be approximately 29 million Americans. Of these, some 6.6 million people did so without a physician's recommendation.

"And more concerning, one-half of adults over age 70 who don't have heart disease or stroke are taking aspirin regularly".

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The study had some limitations, including that the data was based on self-reported survey responses and that adults younger than 40 were not asked about aspirin use.

"Many patients are confused about this", said Colin O'Brien, a senior intern medicine resident at Beth Israel who led the most recent study. "That was a meta-analysis of patients without symptoms of heart disease", she said.

"Aspirin will raise the risk of bleeding and ulcer development regardless of age, but the older you get the more at risk you are anyway".

For decades, aspirin - which costs pennies and doesn't require a prescription - was considered an easy way to prevent a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events for all people. "You don't want to ever take aspirin on your own, just like you should never take any medication on your own, unless you talk to a doctor first".

Wee is not recommending that everyone stop taking aspirin.

"If you are now taking aspirin, discuss it with your doctor to see if it is still needed for you", said Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD, a primary care physician at BIDMC. Yet the aspirin users experienced markedly more digestive-tract bleeding, along with some other side effects. Rather, she said, before making any changes, people should discuss the issue with their doctors.

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