A recent aspirin study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says that too many patients are being treated unnecessarily with baby aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
At this time, the guidelines suggest a daily baby aspirin (81mg) for anyone with a 6% or greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next ten years. This risk, determined by your doctor, is based on a variety of factors such as age, weight, family history, history of other diseases, etc.
But in some physician practices, up to 71% of the patients who have been advised to take a daily baby aspirin don’t meet that criteria.
The variation across practices was so significant that a patient would be 63% more likely to get aspirin inappropriately at one randomly-selected office than an identical patient at another randomly-chosen practice.
“Our findings suggest that there are important opportunities to improve evidence-based aspirin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” the group concluded.
A recent study out of Japan showed no benefit in using baby aspirin as primary prevention, that is being used before the first heart attack or stroke occurs. There might be some benefit to taking a daily baby aspirin to prevent a second heart attack or stroke.
One doctor suggested baby aspirin is overprescribed because the patients expect it:
Physicians, aware of a history of positive attributes of aspirin, acceded to patients’ requests about aspirin, and the use soared. The tail was wagging the dog, and everyone was on aspirin, primary prevention, secondary prevention, or just to treat the psyche. Ultimately, it became kind of a group hysteria, a la aspirin.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about baby aspirin—that it will prevent heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, or even different types of cancer.
However, baby aspirin is not risk free. It can cause bleeding stomach ulcers and can also increase the risk of a stroke caused by bleeding into the brain.
Don’t self treat and don’t be the tail that wags the dog.
If your doctor recommends a daily baby aspirin, have a discussion with him or her to make sure the benefit outweighs the risk. Don’t be one of the 71% of patients that don’t need to be taking it.