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Oct 02, 2017

Continued Use of Low-Dose Aspirin is Critical for Preventing Heart Events

Stopping aspirin use is linked to 30% increased risk for heart attack, stroke and other heart problems.

Stopping daily low-dose aspirin could be dangerous for long-term users with increased cardiovascular risk, based on a recent study that links discontinued aspirin use to a 30% increased risk of heart events.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study looked at potential harms of stopping daily use of low-dose aspirin.

Low-dose aspirin is often prescribed in patients with a history of heart events or for those at increased risk for heart disease. Aspirin helps prevent blood clots and can significantly reduce risk for heart events, especially in patients with a history of heart attack. While lifelong aspirin use is recommended in such patients, some patients are tempted to stop taking aspirin after years of continued use. But as recent findings confirm, discontinued aspirin use can be dangerous even after many years of seemingly good health.

The recent study included more than 601,500 Swedish patients taking low-dose aspirin to help prevent a first or second heart event. Participants were 40 years or older and part of a large Swedish Prescription Registry that tracks prescription drug use. Daily doses of aspirin ranged from 75–160 mg, all of which are considered low-dose.

Over a three-year follow-up period, participants experienced a total of 62,690 heart events, including heart attackstroke and heart-related death. After analysis, researchers found that participants who discontinued aspirin during the study period had 34–41% greater risk for heart events than those who continued taking aspirin.

Researchers note that risk increased almost immediately after discontinuation and did not weaken over time. However, it’s important to note that the analysis did not include patients who stopped taking aspirin due to medical reasons such as bleeding complications or surgery.

What this study shows, according to experts, is the importance of continued aspirin use for patients with increased cardiovascular risk. For most patients who are prescribed low-dose aspirin for heart disease prevention, the benefits of aspirin use far outweigh the potential risks of treatment since aspirin is so well tolerated. Since stopping aspirin use likely increases risk for heart events, patients prescribed aspirin should continue treatment, unless otherwise advised by their doctor.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How does aspirin help prevent heart attack and stroke?

  • Aspirin helps prevent heart attack and stroke by reducing blood clotting. Although blood clotting is the body’s natural way of healing damaged blood vessels, blood clots can travel to the heart and block major arteries, causing heart attack or stroke. Therefore, those at high risk for heart attack and stroke often take aspirin to help reduce clotting and risk for future cardiac events.
  • What aspirin dose is prescribed for patients with history of heart attack and stroke?

  • Patients with a history of cardiovascular events are typically prescribed 75–300 mg/day of aspirin to help reduce their risk for heart attack and stroke.

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