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Half of over-70s taking an aspirin a day when they shouldn’t

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Three big studies last year concluded that the risks of low-dose aspirin – and especially the increased risk for dangerous, and even lethal, stomach bleeds – outweighed the benefits.

The American Heart Association changed its advice this year and told all those aged 70 and older to stop taking low-dose aspirin as a heart disease preventative unless they already have heart problems or suffered a heart attack.

Despite the warning, many Americans aged 40 and over are still routinely taking aspirin as their ‘primary preventive’ against heart disease – which means they are popping a pill instead of changing their diet or exercising.

Even people with peptic ulcers – which increases the chances of stomach bleeding – are taking aspirin every day, researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have discovered.

A ‘substantial’ number of over-70s are self-medicating with aspirin, and aren’t telling their doctors they’re doing so, the researchers say. They took data from a National Health Interview Survey and discovered that 25 per cent of adults aged over 40 – around 29 million people – were taking an aspirin every day, even though they didn’t have heart disease. Of these, around 6.6 million were doing so without telling their doctor.

The figures are more worrying still among the over-70s, with half taking an aspirin routinely. The rate was high even among those with a peptic ulcer, which increase the risk of stomach bleeds anyway.

To be fair, it’s more a factor of marketing than science. The push to get people taking an aspirin a day was so effective and widespread that many have not heard the much quieter messages that, actually, they shouldn’t.

(Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2019; doi: 10.7326/M19-0953)

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Article Topics: Peptic ulcer
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