Should You Stop Taking Aspirin for Your Heart?

Should You Stop Taking Aspirin for Your Heart?

New research begs the question: Should you stop taking aspirin? (Photo by Getty Images)

Prescribing an aspirin a day as part of a preventive regimen to reduce the risk of first-time heart attack or stroke is a controversial directive by docs — and now, new research out of Japan may explain why.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers sought to monitor the effects of a preventative dose of aspirin. The scientists split 14,646 men and women aged 60 to 85 into two groups. Of those directed to take an aspirin a day, 58 died of heart-related incidents with 2.77 percent suffering a fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke. The numbers in the non-aspirin group were very similar, with 57 deaths and 2.96 percent experiencing heart attack or stroke.

After discovering there was no statistically significant difference in preventing a person’s first heart-related episode with low-dose aspirin, the study’s review board stopped the research after five years.

This begs the question. Should you stop taking aspirin?

Cardiologist Kevin Dunsky, M.D, director of diagnostic and preventive medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says this new finding should cause medical professionals to take a second look at drug. “It’s certainly interesting,” he told Yahoo Health. “There isn’t great data that anyone who just exhibits risk factors should be on aspirin.” Dunsky told Yahoo Health. Right now, doctors are left to evaluate their patients on “an individual, case-by-case basis” when determining if taking an aspirin a day is their best option.

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The drug might be right for some people with heart issues. Dr. Dunsky stresses that this study only found that aspirin did not make a difference in primary prevention, or first-time, heart attacks. Men and women who have already suffered a heart attack may still benefit from a dose a day for secondary prevention — but, he says, doctors still have to weigh the benefits against the risks of the drug for each patient, like an increased risk of bleeding.

If a doctor has suggested you take aspirin, don’t stop — at least not yet. Your individual symptoms and medical history might mean he or she has good reason to prescribe you the pill.

Dr. Dunsky does, however, recommend addressing any concerns with your cardiologist or primary-care physician. “Ask about the risks for you personally,” he says. “We still need to find out: does aspirin tip the scale and have more positives than negatives? Hopefully, this study should lead to a lot more questions and thought.”

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