Aspirin is one of the most popular, useful, safe and effective OTC medications in the world. Recent media coverage has focused on aspirin and whether it should be continued for its cardiovascular benefits. These news reports resulted from an updated 2019 primary prevention guidelinesissued by the American College of Cardiology, (ACC), and the American Heart Association, (AHA). Some of the media coverage could have caused confusion for Americans taking aspirin.

First, as a physician who specializes in cardiovascular medicine, I want you to know that your doctor should be consulted before any changes are made or stopped. The second is that I will help you sort through the various news articles and research.

Two main groups of patients are eligible to take daily low-dose aspirin as part of their cardiovascular (CV) event prevention. These include patients who have not had any serious cardiovascular issues but could be at high risk for them, and patients who have had serious cardiovascular events such a heart attack or stroke. The updated guidelines state that patients in the first group (not yet having an event) may need to stop taking aspirin because of the increased risk of bleeding. This is often known as primary prevention. Your personal risk factors will determine whether you fall into this category. It is therefore important to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking aspirin.

Aspirin is a lifesaver for those in the secondary category, or people who have had a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin has been shown to be effective in preventing heart attacks or strokes. It is also well-studied. Aspirin is still the best preventative treatment for secondary prevention. Aspirin’s professional label in the United States is approved for secondary prevention of CV events.

This crucial distinction was unclear in some of the media coverage surrounding the new guidance. If you have had a stroke or heart attack in the past, there is evidence that discontinuing your aspirin regimen without consulting a doctor can increase your chances of having another.

Heart disease is the leading cause for death in the United States. It affects more than 92 millions Americans and causes around 2,200 deaths every day. One life is lost every forty seconds. An estimated 790,000.00 Americans will die from heart attacks each year, and another 795,000 will experience strokes.

A person’s risk for cardiovascular disease can be increased by many factors, including high blood cholesterol and smoking. Nearly half of Americans (47%) are affected by at least one of the above risk factors.

Aspirin has been proven to be lifesaving in clinical studies and professional guidelines for cardiovascular professionals. Research has shown that aspirin can reduce the risk of having a second heart attack by 31% and the chance of having a clot-related stroke, by 22%.

It is important to note that aspirin may not be the best preventative treatment for all patients. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about aspirin use.

Aspirin is not right for everyone. Patients should speak to their doctor before starting an aspirin regimen. Visit this site for more information about safe and responsible OTC medicine use.

Disclosure: Bayer pays Dr. Gurbel for his advice on issues relating to cardiovascular health.

Dr. Gurbel is the Director for Cardiovascular Research at Sinai Hospital, Baltimore, MD and the Director of Sinai Center for Thrombosis Research and Drug Development. He is also Professor of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as well as Adjunct professor of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.