Deep Bench: New guidelines advise against daily low-dose aspirin for most people

(WSAW) -- An aspirin a day has long been held as sage advice when it comes to preventing or staving off a heart attack or stroke. But according to new guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the benefits may not outweigh the risks, for older adults without a history of heart disease.

A daily low-dose aspirin can increase the risk of internal bleeding and early death.

Dr. Paul Luetmer, a cardiologist from Aspirus, joined the Deep Bench on Monday to discuss the new guidelines.

"It does greatly help us in treating heart disease, but it does come with some risk of bleeding, both because it reduces blood clotting but it also can contribute to ulcers," Dr. Luetmer explained. "So there is a small risk to taking aspirin."

He said that for people over 70 who have a higher risk of bleeding and in general don't have heart disease, they should probably not be taking aspirin to prevent it. Dr. Luetmer added that a person should only take it if the benefits outweigh the risks.

"Because aspirin can prevent blood clotting, and heart attacks happen when a blood clot forms in the heart artery, blocking the blood flow, aspirin can prevent that last step of developing the heart attack. That benefit is very large, and if you're thinking you're having a heart attack, taking aspirin can still be very helpful," Dr. Luetmer said.

He said if you can prevent ever getting to the point where a blood clot is going to form, you may not need aspirin.

"For the great majority of patients, their risk of heart disease can be controlled by stopping smoking, not having those sugary drinks, controlling their diabetes and cholesterol, getting regular exercise, and if you do those things, you may reduce your risk enough that you don't have to take aspirin."

As always, there isn't a one size fits all rule. Every patient should work with their doctor to determine the right prevention plan for them.