Aspirin use in older adults: How to manage the risk

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A recent study from Johns Hopkins University has uncovered that many older Americans are still adhering to the practice of taking a daily low-dose aspirin to ward off heart problems, despite newer guidelines advising otherwise.

This finding is particularly notable among individuals aged 70 and above, many of whom have never experienced heart disease.

Historically, aspirin has been recommended to help prevent heart disease and stroke, particularly in those at higher risk due to factors like high blood pressure or smoking.

It works by thinning the blood, which can prevent the formation of clots that lead to heart attacks and strokes. However, this benefit also comes with increased risks, such as bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract and brain, risks that become more pronounced with age.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from over 7,100 U.S. adults aged 60 and older who participated in a federal health survey, focusing specifically on those 70 years and older.

They discovered that between 50% and 62% of these older adults were taking low-dose aspirin daily, not just those with diabetes or a history of cardiovascular issues, but also many without any prior heart disease—almost 10 million Americans in total.

Recent shifts in medical guidelines now generally advise against routine aspirin use for the primary prevention of heart attacks and strokes in people aged 70 and older.

This change is based on newer research that questions the efficacy of aspirin in preventing first-time heart events and highlights the potential dangers of bleeding associated with its use.

The latest recommendations from the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association suggest that aspirin may still be appropriate for some individuals aged 40 to 70 who are at low risk for bleeding but should be avoided as a preventive measure in older adults.

Instead, the focus for primary prevention has shifted towards using statins to lower cholesterol.

Despite these updated guidelines, many seniors continue to use aspirin, a habit likely started years ago when the recommendations were different. This highlights the importance of current patients discussing their aspirin use with their healthcare providers.

Such conversations can help determine whether it is advisable to continue, adjust, or discontinue aspirin therapy based on individual health profiles and newer research.

In conclusion, while aspirin continues to have a role in managing existing cardiovascular disease, its use as a preventive measure in older adults without heart disease warrants careful consideration.

Older Americans and their doctors must work together to weigh the benefits and risks of continuing aspirin in light of evolving evidence and personal health needs.

If you care about health, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

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