Taking Aspirin to Reduce Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke? Check With Your Doctor First

Woman taking an aspirin.

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The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently released new guidelines for preventing heart attack and stroke among healthy older adults — and daily low-dose Aspirin is off their list.

Aspirin will still be recommended for those experiencing a heart attack or stroke, or at risk of recurrence, as it helps prevent blood clots. Patients deemed “high-risk” with contributing factors such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol will also continue to be considered for the daily therapy.

However, previous studies have questioned the value of widespread Aspirin therapy and for otherwise healthy adults, risk may outweigh benefit.

When researchers did an analysis of some 13 studies, involving more than 160,000 people, taking low-dose Aspirin daily was found to increase risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and was proven to be harmful in the case of hemorrhagic stroke — 15 per cent of all strokes, caused by a brain aneurysm burst or a weakened blood vessel leak.

“Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing Aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease,” John Hopkins cardiologist Dr. Roger Blumenthal, who co-chaired the new guidelines, said in a statement. “It’s much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending Aspirin.”

Regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and focusing diets on “vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean vegetable or animal protein, and fish,” were included in the new guidelines as lifestyle choices important for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.

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In response to the news Bayer, the makers of Aspirin, released a statement in which they said, “The updated guidelines do not change the recommendation of Aspirin in secondary prevention, and demonstrate that there is still a role for Aspirin in primary prevention.”

The bottom line: talk to your doctor before starting or stopping daily Aspirin therapy.

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