Millions of adults are risking their health with daily low-dose aspirin

Millions of adults are taking low-dose aspirin daily without their doctor's recommendation, according to a new study, jeopardizing their health in the process. Though some health officials previously recommended daily low-dose aspirin for heart disease prevention, guidelines released earlier this year advise against taking the medication in certain cases, citing three major clinical trials in 2018 that found 'consistent bleeding risks' linked to daily use.

Aspirin is an inexpensive and readily available anti-inflammatory and antiplatelet drug that has a thinning effect on blood. Doctors may recommend that someone at risk for stroke or heart attack take a low dose of aspirin every day as a preventative measure. In the past, many adults viewed daily low-dose aspirin as a common, safe method for preventing cardiovascular disease.

However, aspirin's blood-thinning effect can put people who take the medication daily at risk of developing potentially serious bleeding issues. In 2018, the results of three major clinical trials cast doubt on whether taking low-dose aspirin every day for cardiovascular disease prevention was safe and effective.

Based on the clinical trials' findings, adults may experience few benefits from taking aspirin daily and face a commensurate increase in bleeding risk as a result. New guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association in early 2019 recommended against daily aspirin for adults over the age of 70 who don't have heart disease or stroke risk, as well as in adults who are at risk of bleeding issues.

Despite that, millions of people are taking daily low-dose aspirin without any sort of recommendation from their doctors — and, in many cases, their doctors may be unaware of the daily use, according to a new study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The team found that around 29 million adults ages 40 or older who didn't have cardiovascular disease were taking aspirin every day as a preventative measure. Of those, more than 6 million adults were taking the aspirin without a recommendation from their doctor.

As well, almost half of adults in the particularly risky 70 years or higher age bracket who didn't have stroke history or heart disease were consuming the medication. Adults taking daily low-dose aspirin are advised to talk to their doctor about the habit to determine whether it's putting them at risk of bleeding issues.