For decades, one low-dose aspirin a day was considered an easy way to prevent a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event. But according to the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA), that course of prevention is no longer recommended for healthy older adults. The blood-thinning effect is too high and the evidence of benefit is not enough to make daily aspirin worth taking for most adults. The new advice is this: skip the aspirin unless your doctor specifically recommends it for you.
For patients who have had a heart attack, stroke, open heart surgery or stents placed to open clogged arteries, aspirin can be lifesaving. For these patients at high risk and those with known coronary disease, aspirin remains a key physician recommendation to lower the risk of having a first or second heart attack or stroke.
Even though a daily dose of aspirin is no longer the ideal recommendation for older adults who are not at high risk or who do not have heart disease, millions are still taking it without their doctor’s advice or knowledge, increasing their risk of major bleeding. An analysis based on a national cohort study in the US suggests that nearly one-quarter of adults, 40 years and older without cardiovascular (CV) disease, 23.4 percent in the survey study, might be taking aspirin daily for primary prevention. Nationally, that’s about 29 million people the researchers note. Of that group, 23 percent were taking aspirin without a physician’s recommendation, corresponding to about 6.6 million adults, the report says.
The best way to prevent cardiovascular disease is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The latest research informing the guideline includes these recommendations:
• Eat a heart-healthy diet, such as plant-based and Mediterranean diets. Choose more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fish while limiting salt, fried foods, processed foods and meats and sweetened beverages.
• Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises each week, including brisk walking, swimming, dancing or cycling. If you are inactive, a little amount of activity is better than none.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight can significantly reduce an obese person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and other health issues.
• Avoid tobacco use. One in three deaths from cardiovascular disease can be attributed to smoking cigarettes, vaping or exposure to secondhand smoke.
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For more information, contact Dr. Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.