Study: 10M people in U.S. improperly use daily aspirin therapy

Many older adults are taking aspirin daily, despite recommendations against it, according to a new study. Photo by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay
Many older adults are taking aspirin daily, despite recommendations against it, according to a new study. Photo by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

June 21 (UPI) -- Nearly 10 million older adults in the United States who take aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks shouldn't be using the drug, according to an analysis published Monday by JAMA Network Open.

About 62% of adults age 60 and older with diabetes, and 42% of those without, use aspirin every day, the data showed.


This is despite the increased risk for bleeding strokes, bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract and stomach ulcers associated with the medication among adults age 70 years and older, particularly in those with diabetes.

"Many professional societies have now discouraged routine use of aspirin for primary prevention of [heart] disease in adults aged 70 years and older based on recent evidence," study co-author Dr. Rita R. Kalyani told UPI in an email.

"It's possible that not all healthcare providers are aware of recently updated guidelines discouraging routine aspirin use in older adults," said Kalyani, an associate professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Aspirin, one of the world's oldest drugs, has historically been recommended for use as a preventative medication for blood clot-related heart attacks and strokes, due to its blood-thinning properties.


In recent years, however, studies have found that the drug increases the risk for hemorrhagic, or bleeding, strokes, as well as excessive bleeding in the small intestine and stomach ulcer, the researchers said.

The risk for these complications is even higher among seniors with diabetes.

Based on this newer data, organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have revised their guidelines to account for these risks.

As a result, for adults age 70 and older with diabetes, aspirin should only be used when their risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke outweighs that for any bleeding related complications, Kalyani and her colleagues said.

For this study, the researchers surveyed more than 7,100 adults age 60 and older on their use of daily aspirin between 2011 and 2018.

This period was before the guidelines for aspirin use in older adults dramatically changed, according to Kalyani.

More than 60% of study participants with diabetes reported using daily aspirin.

As more than 14 million seniors age 65 years and older nationally have diabetes, roughly 9.9 million people may be improperly using daily aspirin therapy.

"Our study suggests that a substantial number of older adults may have potential overuse of aspirin therapy if it is not actively discontinued, especially among those with diabetes," Kalyani said.


"It is important for healthcare providers to actively ask their patients aged 70 years and older if they are taking aspirin for primary prevention and on an individual basis discuss the need to discontinue [its] use," she said.

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