Doctors: Stop taking baby aspirin for heart health if you don't have heart issues

"The confusion is out there."

Fred Bodimer
July 25, 2019 - 6:58 am

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — A new study suggests millions of people need to rethink their use of a daily aspirin to prevent a heart attack.  
"The confusion is out there," said SLU Care's Dr. Michael Lim, a cardiologist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.  "It's one of the most common questions I'm getting from my patients coming into the office."

Last year, three studies found taking a baby aspirin a day for heart health  -- in patients with no cardiac history -- is not a good idea because of the increased risk of bleeding and other side effects. 

"And in those patients, the benefit of aspirin to prevent a heart attack or a stroke did not seem to be very high," Dr. Lim tells KMOX.  "And in fact, it wasn't that much higher than the risk of bleeding that those patients had.  Whenever the risk for bleeding is very similar to the potential benefit of preventing a heart attack, the medical community does not recommend treatment because the balance is not in favor of the patient."
How big is the risk of bleeding?

"A baby aspirin a day increases the risk of what we call major bleeding episodes by somewhere between 2 and 3 percent per year," said Dr. Lim.  "A major bleeding episode means you have to be hospitalized because you've lost so much blood."
 But millions of Americans did not get the message and are still taking a daily aspirin when they have no heart disease history.

"The study that came out this week did a survey of patients and found there was still a significant number of people who have not had heart disease before who are taking a baby aspirin every day and 40-percent of them were taking it without even having a discussion or a recommendation from their physician."
The take home message here?

"First, if there's any question about should I take a baby aspirin a day, talk about it with your doctor and make sure the answer is crystal clear," said Dr. Lim.  "Second,  this discussion does not apply to those who have had a heart attack before, had stents in their heart, or had bypass surgery.  If you've had those things, a baby aspirin a day absolutely provides you benefit and this study and discussion is not pertinent to you."
In 2017, nearly 30 million people 40 and older were taking an aspirin a day despite having no known heart disease -- including 10 million over age 70.​