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Daily Aspirin Use Carries Risks. Many Older Adults Take It Anyway

The blood thinner can raise the likelihood of gastrointestinal bleeding, especially in people over 60. Here’s what to know.

According to recent studies, up to 18.5 million older persons take aspirin on a regular basis in an attempt to delay the start of cardiovascular disease, despite the fact that for many of these patients, the hazards of the medication outweigh the benefits.

In a recent study, nearly one-third of seniors 60 years of age or older without cardiovascular disease were taking aspirin in 2021, according to self-reported data from over 186,000 persons across the United States, which was published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Due in major part to its increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, the medication is generally not advised for those patients.

Senior resident physician at Cleveland Clinic and research author Dr. Mohak Gupta stated, “Some of this use is potentially harmful, because it may cause more bleeding than it offers cardiovascular protection, in these older adults especially.”

As the president of Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital and a former president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Valentin Fuster expressed his concern about the large number of patients who should not be taking aspirin and the fact that many times, doctors seem to have encouraged these patients to take the medication.

Dr. Fuster, who was not engaged in the study, asserted that “it’s not actually the patients that get in their own way.” (The survey did discover, however, that fewer physicians prescribed the medication in 2021 than in prior years.)

Who ought to take an aspirin every day?

Aspirin reduces the likelihood of blood clots, which can clog arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke, by thinned blood. Doctors advised using low doses of aspirin to avoid heart disease for a long time.

However, in recent years, that practice has begun to change. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology published guidelines in 2019 recommending against the routine use of blood thinners to prevent cardiovascular problems in persons over the age of 70. Additionally, in 2022, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised against the use of aspirin as a heart disease preventive for those 60 years of age or older who had no prior history of cardiovascular issues.

Due to the danger of gastrointestinal bleeding, which Dr. Gupta stated is highest in people 60 years of age and older or who are already at risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, doctors have advised against taking it in these patients.

According to Dr. Gupta, some patient populations may still benefit from taking an aspirin every day, such as individuals who have had a heart attack, stroke, or diagnosis of heart disease. In certain situations, the medication might keep cardiac issues from coming back or getting worse, he continued.

According to Dr. Gupta, the medication may also be suitable for adults between the ages of 40 and 59 who do not have a history of bleeding but who are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease due to smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other risk factors.

Despite the fact that aspirin is sold over-the-counter, Dr. Gupta advised consumers to always speak with their physician before using the drug due to its hazards. He declared, “Patients should not make this decision on their own.”

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