Daily Aspirin Use Still High Among Elderly Despite New Guidelines: Study

Older adults with diabetes are still taking daily aspirin to prevent heart disease or stroke, even though new guidelines suggest the medication may cause more harm than good, according to the findings of a new study.

In a recent study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, researchers with Johns Hopkins University found that 62% of U.S. adults aged 70 and older with diabetes, and 48.5% without diabetes, use low-dose daily aspirin to cut their risk of heart disease or stroke.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2018, involving a total of 7,103 individuals 60 years or older with and without diabetes, who were questioned on preventive aspirin use. Further statistical analyses were made from July 2019 to April 2021.

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An estimated 9.9 million US adults 70 years or older with or without diabetes reported the use of aspirin therapy for primary prevention. Those recorded taking aspirin were predominately men and white.

Among all study participants with no risk factors for cardiovascular problems, 20% were taking aspirin. And among those whose only risk factor was diabetes, 43% were on aspirin, according to the findings.

Aspirin can be beneficial for those who have a known cardiovascular disease, either clogged heart arteries or a history of heart attack or stroke, and was previously recommended as a daily preventative measure for many years. However, new guidelines suggest adults aged 70 and up should stop taking daily aspirin due to the risk of suffering severe internal bleeding.

For those without cardiovascular disease, a daily aspirin regimen may not prevent injury, and could even increase the likelihood of an adverse health event, experts now warn.

Doctors now suggest the use of statins instead, which they say lower LDL cholesterol to prevent heart problems more reliably.

“This cross-sectional study found that preventive aspirin use was higher among older adults with diabetes than in those without diabetes,” the researchers concluded. “Results suggest that 9.9 million older US adults who previously took aspirin for primary prevention would not be recommended for its continued use, particularly among those with diabetes.”

The main focus between doctors and patients should be whether it’s still even necessary for aspirin preventative use, researchers recommended. They called for future studies to examine the differences the new guidelines have made in aspirin use.

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