Stopping Aspirin Therapy May Increase Cardiovascular Risks
November 17, 2017
According to data found throughout the course of a recent Swedish study, stopping low-dose aspirin therapy can increase cardiovascular risks – such as heart attack and stroke – by nearly 40%. Aspirin therapy, or taking a low-dose of aspirin daily as per a doctor’s recommendation, may be prescribed after a person has had a heart attack or stroke in order to prevent another, or any other dangerous cardiovascular event, from occurring.
To determine the effects of discontinuing low-dose daily aspirin therapy, Swedish researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 600,000 patients. The study did not account for individuals who were advised to discontinue aspirin therapy by a medical professional because of health risks; instead, it investigated the effects on patients who discontinued their daily course aspirin therapy against medical advice.
The study concluded that patients who stopped their aspirin regimens were 37% more likely to suffer sudden cardiac death, heart attack or stroke. Sudden cardiac death is caused by an immediate loss in heart function and a stroke occurs when a person’s brain is deprived of blood and oxygen. Heart attacks – or myocardial infarctions – result in damage to the heart caused by a blood clot or blockage of blood flow. Doctors should alert their cardiovascular patients that stopping low-dose daily aspirin therapy against medical advice could drastically increase heart-related risks, and advise them to follow all prescription medication directions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that approximately 140,000 people die from strokes every year and 610,000 from heart disease, which includes heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. In fact, every 40 seconds a person has a heart attack. This makes heart disease one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., accounting for one out of every four fatalities.
Just as with other medical conditions, certain people are more prone to heart disease than others. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), smoking, preeclampsia, diabetes, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, high triglyceride levels, poor diet and a lack of physical activity all contribute to increased cardiovascular hazards. Some risk factors are entirely preventable, like smoking and a lack of physical activity. Others, such as having a family history of heart disease, may not be preventable but are very important for patients to discuss with their doctor or cardiologist in order to determine their cardiovascular risk level.
Some heart attacks are “silent”, which means that a person doesn’t know he or she is having one but serious physical damage is still being done to their body. The CDC estimates that at least every 1 out of 5 heart attacks are silent. Once a person has had one heart attack, their chances of having another increase. The CDC reports that out of the 790,000 heart attacks that happen every year, a whopping 210,000 of them happen to individuals who had a heart attack before. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be having a heart attack, immediately dial 9-1-1.
Strokes happen just as often as heart attacks do and according to the CDC, every four minutes someone dies from one. Similarly to heart attacks, people with a history of stroke are at a greater risk for having another. Early medical intervention is key; if someone is treated within 3 hours of presenting symptoms, his or her chances of becoming disabled decreases. Some common symptoms of a stroke include:
- Numbness/weakness in the face, legs or arms;
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding other people;
- Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination, and:
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Please read more about the signs and symptoms of strokes. If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, dial 9-1-1 right away.
The study found that when patients discontinue low-dose daily aspirin therapy against medical advice, their risks for cardiovascular events remain dangerously high for years. The information uncovered by the study not only confirms that low-dose aspirin therapy is an effective way to combat various cardiovascular risks, but also that it is crucial for patients to observe their doctor’s advice and prescribed medication regimen. Because aspirin doesn’t require a prescription, some people decide to take it daily on their own. Before you decide to start low-dose daily aspirin therapy, you should discuss the potential risks and benefits with your doctor.
Aspirin comes along with some of its own medical risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, aspirin therapy sometimes increases the risks of hemorrhagic – or bleeding – stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are the result of weakened blood vessels that rupture. Other side effects of aspirin may include:
- Increased risk for gastrointestinal bleeding;
- Allergic reaction, and:
- Possible drug interactions
A lack of patient adherence to medication can culminate in dangerous consequences. People may choose to discontinue a course of medication because they think they are better or as a result of unfortunate and uncomfortable side effects. Doctors note that elderly patients – who are more likely to take multiple medications due to chronic conditions – can be prone to forgetfulness. If you are prescribed medication that you’re considering stopping, please discuss your concerns with your doctor before making any medical decision.
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