NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — For years, doctors have told almost everyone of middle age or older to take a daily aspirin to thin the blood.
The idea was that thinner blood would lessen blood clots, which cause the vast majority of heart attacks, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained.
Now, in a major turnaround, researchers say that for most people, the risks of taking a daily aspirin are greater than the benefits.
The shift in medical advice was due to the risk of internal bleeding.
Kirk Deverux, 56, takes aspirin to keep his blood from clotting and to protect his heart.
“Just a little over a year ago, they found a major blockage and I had bypass surgery,” Deverux said.
Deverux has heart disease, so taking a baby aspirin a day to thin his blood and help prevent blood clots that could cause a heart attack is probably a good idea, Gomez reported.
However, aspirin is a serious drug that comes with serious risks.
“Bleeding from the stomach is quite common, more rarely bleeding in the brain. So, if you have a low risk of a heart attack then the bleeding risk may overwhelm any potential benefit of aspirin,” Dr. Steve Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic explained.
That risk led Food and Drug Administration researchers to upend years of medical advice.
After examining major aspirin studies the agency concluded that the data does not support the use of aspirin as a preventative medication by people who have not had a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problems.
“It’s somebody that has every risk factor: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strong family history, diabetes, if you have all of those things, smoking. If you have all of those risk factors then some of those people we will treat with aspirin, but that’s not very many,” Dr. Nissen said.
In people who only have a single risk factor the FDA said that data does not show a benefit from aspirin therapy. The bleeding risk is even greater when people take a daily aspirin and then take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs for pain.
“If you’re in doubt talk to your physician. Frankly, you know, self medication is almost never a good idea whether it be aspirin or anything else,” Dr. Nissen explained.
The advice from the FDA does not change the recommendation to take an aspirin if you think you’re having a heart attack, or experiencing a sudden pressure in your chest, pain in the chest, arm, shoulder, or jaw.
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