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Should You Take A Daily Aspirin Or Not? What doctors are saying

Story Highlights

New Harvard study revisited heart health, low-dose aspirin guidelinesAspirin is often used for those with cardiovascular disease or heart problemsIf you take aspirin, you should talk to your primary care doctor

Multiple, extensive studies have prompted doctors to rethink their openness to recommending low-dose aspirin every day as a way of preventing heart attacks and strokes in people who don’t have a history of cardiovascular diseases.

The national conversation surrounding aspirin began last year when a large clinical trial in Australia found that a daily low-dose aspirin had no effect on prolonging life in healthy, elderly people. Not only was there no benefit for the participants, who were 70 or older, but results also showed that they were at a higher risk of bleeding, such as hemorrhages.

An increased risk of bleeding in the skull was also found in a more recent study published in May, which focused on participants who had no history of heart attacks or strokes.

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association published updated guidelines in March that reversed the recommendation of a low-dose, daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes for people who don’t have a history of cardiovascular disease.

This week, a new study is asking the millions of people who take aspirin every day to prevent heart attacks to have serious conversations with their doctors about whether they truly need it.

The guidelines focused on two specific points:

People over 70 who don't have heart disease – or are younger but at increased risk of bleeding – should avoid daily aspirin for prevention.Only certain 40- to 70-year-olds 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.

Two doctors spoke to reporters about what the new studies and guidelines mean for millions of Americans. 

But patients should speak with their primary care providers before discontinuing daily aspirin use or starting it.

The following explanations also apply only to long-term aspirin use – not to patients taking on an as-needed basis for aches and pains.

Who should

Aspirin is a key aspect of treatment for many patients who have a history of cardiovascular disease or heart problems, such as experiencing a heart attack, said Dr. Dan Muñoz, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University.

These patients are categorized into secondary prevention, which means that they have already had cardiovascular issues in the past and are preventing a second occurrence with daily, low-dose aspirin.

“As doctors we care for patients across the spectrum, we want to make sure the right message reaches the right patients,” Muñoz said. That message: Patients with cardiovascular disease already taking aspirin as recommended by their doctor should continue to do so.

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