Low-dose aspirin no longer recommended for healthy, older adults for preventing heart attacks

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Low-dose aspirin no longer recommended for healthy, older adults for preventing heart attacks

For years, millions of older Americans were told by doctors to take a daily low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes, both leading causes of death in the U.S. The purpose of taking a “baby” aspirin was to help thin the blood to prevent clotting, lowering the risk of such health events.

Now, a large international study has found that taking a low-dose aspirin long-term, does not provide any benefit and may actually be harmful for older people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke. These new guidelines were issued by two cardiology groups that say, for most healthy adults, the advice of recommending low-dose aspirin is no longer warranted. Both the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) issued this new heart health guideline recommendation jointly.

The guideline now recommends that healthy adults age 70 or older should not be taking low-dose aspirin as a preventative measure of heart attack or stroke. Both the ACC and the AHA agreed that for older adults at low risk – no prior history of heart attack, stroke, or cardiac surgeries – the risk of bleeding that comes with daily low-dose aspirin is now thought to outweigh any heart benefit.

The co-chair of the 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Dr. Roger Blumenthal, stated that, “Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without cardiovascular disease. Aspirin should be limited to people at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease and a very low risk of bleeding.”

Dr. Blumenthal went on to emphasize that it is more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin.

Nearly 80 percent of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented with lifestyle modifications according to the AHA. Lifestyle habits of healthy eating, regular exercise, not smoking, and reducing stress, are considered one of the most important ways  to prevent the onset of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.

When lifestyle modifications are addressed first, with plenty of help and encouragement from healthcare professionals guiding people towards reaching health goals, this can play a much bigger role in reducing their risk of developing heart disease than automatically placing them on medication such as aspirin.