Tens of millions of older Americans take low-dose aspirin, survey finds. For many, the risks of the drug can

Many older adults unknowingly put themselves at risk of internal bleeding by taking low-dose aspirin as a preventative measure, a new investigation revealseven if it is no longer recommended by health authorities, unless seniors already suffer from cardiovascular disease.

According to the study published in JAMA on June 24, about a third of adults 60 and older say they take aspirin regularly even though they shouldn’t. This means that around 18.5 million people are taking a drug that poses more risks. than benefit their health.

For many years, the conventional wisdom was that “an aspirin a day keeps the doctor away” by reducing the risk of heart attack. Doctors no longer believe the benefits of taking daily low-dose aspirin outweigh the risks for people who don’t already have heart disease — but daily practices haven’t caught up, the study suggests.

Here’s what to know about the new research and whether you should take low-dose aspirin daily.

Cleveland Clinic researchers surveyed more than 186,000 adults ages 40 and older in the United States about their aspirin use in 2021. Nearly 20% reported using aspirin for “primary prevention.” “, that is to say to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Rates were even higher among those 60 and older: just under 30% used aspirin for this purpose.

More than 5% of people who took aspirin for primary prevention did so without their doctor’s advice, while the remaining 95% either told their doctor they were using the over-the-counter medication or they were advised to take it. their doctors.

In the 1990s, a series of research suggested that taking low-dose aspirin regularly could reduce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke by preventing one of their most common causes: blood clots. . But it has never been without risk. “The way aspirin works is that it basically works against an enzyme called cyclooxygenase,” which plays a key role in the formation of clots, Dr. Prashant Vaishnava, preventive cardiologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told Yahoo Life. “Through this inhibition, it actually increases the risk of bleeding, because it makes platelets less likely to clump together,” a phenomenon that normally helps stop internal bleeding, he explains.

Studies from thirty years ago suggested that the risk of bleeding – primarily in the gastrointestinal tract – was worth it, given its benefits in preventing heart attacks and strokes. But research published in 2018 has turned this way of thinking on its head, especially for older people. “The decision to treat with a medication is essentially a balancing act between the benefits and risks of that medication” Dr Mohak Gupta, senior resident physician at the Cleveland Clinic and co-author of the new study, told Yahoo Life. “The benefits of aspirin in primary prevention are smaller and the risks are higher than we previously imagined. » As a result, the…

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