For years, people have been following doctor’s orders of taking a daily dose of aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, three randomized controlled trials published last year set out to determine the efficacy of a daily low dose of aspirin for this indication in adults, and they found surprising results. The associated health risks observed with daily aspirin were higher than expected, with few benefits overall. One such risk is major bleeding. Guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology were re-evaluated and as of March 2019, they advise against daily aspirin use as a primary prevention of CVD for many adults.
To figure out how many U.S. adults might be affected by the changes, a group from Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center set out to characterize aspirin use for CVD prevention among this population. Based on data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, they project that nearly 30 million U.S. adults 40 years old and older used aspirin to prevent CVD despite having no known heart disease. A large proportion of these were self-medicating, which can be dangerous, even with an over-the-counter drug. While patients who have experienced a previous heart attack may still be advised by their doctors to take some aspirin, those with no history of CVD who do are potentially causing themselves harm.
[Editor's note: This article does not constitute medical advice. If you have questions about using aspirin or CVD, please speak to a medical professional.]