Daily low-dose aspirin was recommended for decades as an option to help people over 50 maintain and improve heart health--even those without a history of heart trouble. But new guidelines from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) have called that practice into question.
Jay Malickel, MD, a board-certified primary care provider with Inspira Health, explains what you need to know about the updated daily aspirin guidelines, and other ways you can manage your heart health.
The original aspirin recommendations were a result of the drug’s ability to decrease inflammation and stop blood platelets from sticking together to form clots. Both functions decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke in those with an average risk.
Plus, the drug’s over-the-counter availability, low price and variety of dosage options made it an ideal choice for a daily regimen. The practice became widespread and was endorsed by the ACC and AHA.
However, several new studies are questioning regular aspirin use, even in the smallest doses.
Aspirin can cause damage to the stomach lining with continued use, and though this damage is minor, the ACC and AHA have ruled that the cost outweighs the benefit for those without an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Those with a history of stomach ulcers should be especially careful with the medication.
Aspirin also makes it more difficult for bleeding to stop, which can be dangerous for patients with an increased bleeding risk or in those over the age of 70.
These results prompted a change in the prescription guidelines. Now, daily aspirin regimens are reserved for high-risk heart patients without a history of bleeding issues.
For those with an average risk of heart attack or heart disease, healthy lifestyle choices are the best preventive measures. Choosing heart-healthy meals heavy in whole grains and vegetables, performing physical activities for at least 150 minutes per week and maintaining a healthy weight are important for overall cardiac health.
Dr. Malickel points out, “our perceptions of a daily aspirin regimen for the prevention of heart attacks and stroke came from studies done almost 30 years ago.” He continues, “Many researchers feel the more recent studies show the benefits of the aspirin no longer outweigh the risks for most patients since thankfully, patients are doing a much better job controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol today.”
Quitting tobacco, keeping an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol, and managing the symptoms of diabetes will also minimize risk.