Aspirin is one of the most common, useful, and effective over-the-counter medicines in the world and has been trusted by physicians for more than 120 years but more and more people are confused when it comes to appropriate usage. This confusion is a result of recent media coverage around the updates to the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) aspirin recommendations. These updated recommendations are specific to primary prevention, which is when you take aspirin to help prevent a first heart attack or clot-related stroke.
Most importantly, the recommendations do not include patients who take a doctor-directed aspirin regimen for secondary prevention, which is when someone takes aspirin because they have already had a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or ischemic (clot-related) stroke and want to prevent another one from occurring. These recommendations have not changed the importance of aspirin for these patients. Aspirin continues to be a life-saving preventive treatment for many patients who have already had a cardiovascular event. Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.
“As a practicing cardiologist, I have noticed there is confusion about appropriate aspirin use,” said Dr. Laurence Sperling, Executive Director of Million Hearts Campaign. “It is important for my patients to discuss their concerns with me and others should do the same with their doctor. Speak with your healthcare professional before stopping or changing a doctor-directed aspirin regimen. Studies have shown that discontinuing an aspirin regimen can increase risk of another heart attack by 63% and by 40% for another clot-related stroke.”
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 1 in 5 people who have had a heart attack will have another within five years. This risk is 1 in 4 for another clot-related stroke. Aspirin can be a simple step to help lower the risk of additional cardiovascular events, in addition to other medications and lifestyle changes. Studies have found that aspirin can help reduce the risk of another heart attack by 31% and another ischemic stroke by 22%.
While there are new recommendations about using aspirin to help prevent cardiovascular events, clinicians base their treatment recommendations on individual patient’s indications, benefits and risks. It’s important to tell your healthcare professional if you have a family history of heart disease or stroke and discuss your own medical history and lifestyle to help determine if an aspirin regimen is right for you. While heart conditions can be worrisome to talk about, the more information you share with your doctor, the better prepared your doctor is to help address your heart health.
For more information about cardiovascular disease, treatments, research and how to improve heart health, visit Million Hearts, MillionHearts.hhs.gov.
Sponsored by Bayer, a sponsor of the Alliance for the Million Hearts Campaign, a national initiative co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Million Hearts Campaign that recognizes the possibility to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes within 5 years.