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Millions of people are taking aspirin for heart health every day. It may not be necessary


Millions of people taking aspirin every day to prevent heart attacks should probably have serious conversations with their doctors about whether they really need it.

About 29 million people aged 40 and older were taking aspirin in a day in 2017, even though they did not have heart disease, according to a study by Harvard University and the Deaconess Medical Center in Beth Israel, which was released on Monday.

The study also found that approximately 6.6 million of these people used aspirin, although the doctor never recommended it. Nearly 10 million people over the age of 70 who do not have heart disease were taking aspirin for prevention every day, researchers in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported.

The discovery came after several extensive studies of last year, which showed that normal aspirin can be found only marginally beneficial if at all – especially in older adults.

A study published this year in the JAMA Neurology magazine found that taking low-dose aspirin was associated with an increased risk of heartbreak in the skull for people without heart disease.

Studies contrast with what doctors have recommended for decades: taking 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin per day to prevent stroke or heart attacks.

"Many patients are confused about this," said Dr. Colin O'Brien, an elderly doctor of internists from Beth Israel who led the most recent study.

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Recent studies have encouraged the American Heart Association and the American Cardiac Academy to change their guidelines in March:

  • People over 70 years of age who have no heart disease – or are younger, but who have a greater risk of bleeding – should avoid daily aspirin prevention.

  • Only some 40 to 70 years old who do not yet have heart disease have a high risk of having 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin per day for which a doctor has to decide.

A Harvard study has shown how many millions of people who took routine aspirin in 2017 should review these guidelines once again.

"Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease," said Cardiologist Roger Blumenthal, who was not included in the Harvard study, in March. "It's more important to optimize life habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol contrary to recommending aspirin."

Although people who do not have heart problems should not take routine aspirin, it is still recommended for surviving heart attacks.

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology say that regular exercise, maintaining healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco and eating with rich vegetables and low sugar and trans fats are one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease.

"We hope that several primary care doctors will talk with their patients about the use of aspirin, and more patients will come up with their doctors," said O Brien.

Contribution: Ashley May, USA TODAY and The Associated Press. Follow Adrianni Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT

This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Aspirin: The Harvard study raises questions about heart health, daily dose

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