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Millions of people take a daily aspirin for heart health. They might not need to


Jul. 24, 2019 USA Today

About 29 million people 40 and older took an aspirin a day in 2017 despite not having heart disease, according to a study by Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center that was published Monday.

The study found about 6.6 million of those people used aspirin even though a doctor never recommended it to them. Nearly 10 million people older than 70 who didn’t have heart disease took daily aspirin for prevention, the researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Multiple, extensive studies last year found that only a marginal benefit, if any, could be found from routine aspirin use – especially among older adults. 

A study published this year in the journal JAMA Neurology found that taking low-dose aspirin is associated with an increased risk for bleeding within the skull for people without heart disease. 

The studies run counter to what doctors had recommended for decades: taking 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin daily to prevent strokes or heart attacks.

“Many patients are confused about this,” said Colin O’Brien, a senior intern medicine resident at Beth Israel who led the most recent study. 

The studies prompted the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to change their guidelines in March:

  • 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 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.
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