Medicine

Millions Self-Prescribe Aspirin for CVD Prevention

Millions Self-Prescribe Aspirin for CVD Prevention

Millions of United States adults who've never had cardiovascular disease could still be taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart disease, despite updated recommendations that say it may be unnecessary and possibly risky, new research suggests.

Pain relievers like aspirin have anti-coagulating effects - they're also called blood thinners - which physicians assume would help prevent vascular clots from forming. "Certainly there are harms associated with indiscriminate aspirin use for primary prevention in low risk populations".

In a new study, researchers analyzed data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative survey of American households which was conducted before the release of the new guidelines.

The research was based on the latest data available and stated that almost 10 million people, i.e., about half of the population above 70, were taking an Aspirin every day for heart health, without having any risk of heart disease.

Almost half (44.6%) of adults aged 70 or older without cardiovascular disease said they were using aspirin to prevent 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.

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. It stated that almost 29 million people - aged 40 and above - took Aspirin daily on average without having any known heart disease in 2017.

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Doctors have long recommended that people who have already had a heart attack or stroke should take a 75 - 100 milligram aspirin every day to prevent heart attacks and strokes. What's more, 6.6 million of those people were doing so on their own, without a doctor's recommendation, per the AP.

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.

How many people need to get that message? "And then you should never stop the aspirin or consider stopping it or changing the dosing regimen unless you talk to your physician first".

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

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.

After decades of primary care physicians advising patients to take a daily aspirin for heart health, experts at Harvard are disputing the practice.

"It is important for the general public to know that these new recommendations about aspirin apply to healthy people who do not have pre-existing heart disease", she said. 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.