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Nearly half of older adults report daily aspirin use despite serious risks

Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have found that many older Americans are putting themselves at risk of serious health complications by taking daily doses of aspirin

Doctors once recommended a low dose of aspirin for individuals who had an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).  However, three separate studies conducted in 2018 showed that the risks of daily aspirin use far outweigh the benefits. 

As a result of the research, clinical practice guidelines were changed earlier this year. Dr. Christina C. Wee is the senior author of the BIDMC study and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School

“Although prior American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines recommended aspirin only in persons without elevated bleeding risk, the 2019 guidelines now explicitly recommend against aspirin use among those over the age of 70 who do not have existing heart disease or stroke,” said Dr. Wee.

“Our findings suggest that a substantial portion of adults may be taking aspirin without their physician’s advice and potentially without their knowledge.”

Based on data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the team analyzed the use of aspirin for the prevention of CVD. 

The study revealed that about 29 million people aged 40 or older were taking a daily dose of aspirin for the prevention of heart disease. Among these individuals, around 6.6 million were using aspirin without a doctor’s knowledge.

Shockingly, nearly half of adults over the age of 70 with no history of heart disease or stroke reported daily aspirin use. 

“Our findings show a tremendous need for health care practitioners to ask their patients about ongoing aspirin use and to advise them about the importance of balancing the benefits and harms, especially among older adults and those with prior peptic ulcer disease,” said study lead author Dr. Colin O’Brien.

The researchers said that the findings are applicable to adults who do not have a history of cardiovascular disease or stroke. “If you are currently taking aspirin, discuss it with your doctor to see if it is still needed for you,” said study co-author Dr. Stephen Juraschek. 

The study is published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Shane Maritch

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