Docs Back Off Aspirin to Prevent 1st Heart Attack

Woman taking an aspirin

Taking a low-dose aspirin every day has always been known to cut the chances of another heart attack, stroke or other heart problem in people who already have had one, but the risks don't outweigh the benefits for most other folks according to new guidelines.

A new report from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association says the drug "should be used infrequently" for the objective of preventing cardiovascular disease "because of lack of net benefit" for most adults.

USA doctors have long advised adults who haven't had a heart attack or stroke but are at high risk for these events to take a daily aspirin pill, an approach known as primary prevention.

"For the most part, we are now much better at treating risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and especially high cholesterol", explained Campbell, who wasn't involved in drawing up the new guidelines.

It all comes down to benefit versus risk with even a low dose daily of aspirin. "This makes the biggest difference, probably negating any previously perceived aspirin benefit in primary prevention".

CNN reports aspirin as a preventative measure is "now a class 2b recommendation". But the research found that people taking low-dose aspirin were just as likely to die over the course of the study period than those taking a placebo.

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In addition, 5.9 percent of participants taking aspirin had an increased risk of death compared to 5.2 percent taking a placebo.

"Aspirin should be limited to people at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease and a very low risk of bleeding", Dr. Blumenthal said. The study also notes that the study's findings do not apply to people "with a proven indication for aspirin such as stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular disease".

Dr. Kevin Campbell is a cardiologist working in North Carolina.

Other recommendations in the report aimed at minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disease include engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and focusing diets on "vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean vegetable or animal protein, and fish".

Aspirin continues to be the cornerstone treatment for the prevention of secondary cardiovascular events (secondary prevention).

But new guidelines issued Sunday by two cardiology groups say that, for most adults, the practice may no longer be warranted.

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