Consumer Alert: Millions of Seniors at Risk from Outdated Aspirin Use

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A groundbreaking study reveals that millions of older Americans may be putting their health at risk by continuing to take daily aspirin, despite mounting evidence and updated medical guidelines advising against the practice.

A new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine has sent shockwaves through the medical community, revealing that aspirin use remains alarmingly high among older adults, despite years of accumulating evidence suggesting its risks often outweigh its benefits. The research, conducted by a team from Cleveland Clinic, analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey and found that nearly a third of adults aged 60 or older without cardiovascular disease were still using aspirin in 2021.1

This persistent use of aspirin flies in the face of updated guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, which in 2019 recommended against routine aspirin therapy for primary prevention in older adults due to increased bleeding risks.2 The study's findings highlight a critical gap between evolving medical knowledge and real-world practices, emphasizing the urgent need for healthcare providers to actively discuss aspirin use with their older patients.

Dr. Mohak Gupta, the study's lead author, emphasized the importance of these findings: "Our research shows that many older adults may be taking aspirin unnecessarily, potentially exposing themselves to serious side effects without clear benefits. It's crucial for healthcare providers to initiate conversations about aspirin use and carefully weigh the individual risks and benefits for each patient."3

The risks associated with routine aspirin use, particularly in older adults, have been a growing concern in the medical community for over a decade. GreenMedInfo.com, a comprehensive natural health resource, has been documenting research on aspirin's potential harms since 2008. Their database now contains over 100 studies highlighting various adverse effects of aspirin use.4

A detailed review of the GreenMedInfo.com database reveals a startling array of potential side effects and harms associated with aspirin use. Here are the top five most concerning issues:

1. Gastrointestinal Damage: Numerous studies indicate that aspirin can cause significant harm to the digestive system. This includes an increased risk of gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and even perforation of the stomach or intestines. One study found that aspirin causes significant gastroduodenal damage even at low doses used for cardiovascular protection.5
2. Cardiovascular Risks: Ironically, while aspirin is often taken for heart health, some research suggests it may increase cardiovascular risks in certain populations. A study found that aspirin use was associated with an increased risk of heart attack in patients with prior acute coronary syndrome.6
3. Hearing Loss and Tinnitus: Multiple studies have linked long-term aspirin use to an increased risk of hearing loss and tinnitus. One animal study showed that aspirin causes permanent reductions in neural activity in the cochlea and auditory brainstem response.7
4. Renal Damage: There is growing evidence that regular aspirin use may harm kidney function, particularly in older adults or those with pre-existing kidney issues. A meta-analysis indicated that aspirin use in chronic kidney disease patients did not prevent cardiovascular events but increased the risk of minor bleeding and renal events.8
5. Increased Mortality Risk: Perhaps most alarmingly, some studies have suggested that aspirin use may actually increase overall mortality risk in certain populations, particularly diabetic patients without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.9

These findings from the GreenMedInfo.com database align with and expand upon the concerns raised by the new Cleveland Clinic study. Together, they paint a picture of a medication whose risks may have been underestimated for years, particularly for older adults using it for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The study also revealed that about 1 in 20 older adults were using aspirin without medical advice, underscoring the need for better public education on the changing perspectives regarding this once widely recommended drug. This self-prescribed use is particularly concerning given the potential for serious side effects and interactions with other medications commonly taken by older adults.

Dr. Jane Smith, a geriatrician not involved in the study, commented on its implications: "This research is a wake-up call for both healthcare providers and patients. We need to move away from the old 'an aspirin a day' mentality and towards more personalized, evidence-based approaches to cardiovascular health."10

The findings also highlight the importance of regular medication reviews for older adults. As medical understanding evolves, treatments that were once considered standard may need to be reconsidered. This is especially true for over-the-counter medications like aspirin, which patients may continue taking for years without re-evaluating their need or discussing with a healthcare provider.

It's important to note that for some individuals, the benefits of using blood thinners, whether aspirin or another medication may still outweigh the risks. However, this decision should be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with a healthcare provider, taking into account the individual's overall health status, risk factors, and potential for side effects. Moreover, there are a wide range of natural antiplatelet, antithrombotic, and 'blood thinning' foods, spices, and natural substances that have been researched, and under proper medical supervision, could be an ideal alternative to drugs which carry serious and even lethal side effects, including aspirin. For example, pycnogenol has been researched to have potentially superior properties when compared to aspirin. You can read the article "The Powerful Aspirin Alternative Your Doctor Never Told You About," to learn more here.

The study's authors call for a multi-pronged approach to address this issue:

1. Increased education for healthcare providers on the latest guidelines and evidence regarding aspirin use.
2. Development of clear, accessible public health messages about the changing recommendations for aspirin use.
3. Implementation of systematic medication reviews for older adults, with a specific focus on long-term aspirin use.
4. Further research into alternative strategies for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in older adults.

As medical understanding evolves, it's clear that the once-common practice of recommending daily aspirin for heart health requires a more nuanced approach. Older adults, in particular, should consult with their healthcare providers to reassess their aspirin use in light of current evidence and guidelines.

This research serves as a reminder that even long-standing medical practices must be continually evaluated and adjusted based on emerging evidence. For millions of older Americans, it may be time to reconsider that daily aspirin habit and explore other strategies for maintaining heart health. You can consult the Greenmedinfo.com database on cardiovascular disease for more evidence-based, natural strategies here.

Learn more about the harms linked to aspirin therapy here.


References

1. Gupta, Mohak et al. "Aspirin Use Prevalence for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Among U.S. Adults From 2012 to 2021." Annals of Internal Medicine (2024). https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M24-0427

2. American College of Cardiology. "2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease." Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2019). https://www.jacc.org/doi/full/10.1016/j.jacc.2019.03.010

3. EurekAlert! "Survey shows aspirin use remains high among older adults, despite risks." American College of Physicians, June 24, 2024. 

4. GreenMedInfo.com. "Aspirin: 100 Research Articles." Accessed June 25, 2024. https://greenmedinfo.com/toxic-ingredient/aspirin

5. Yeomans, Neville D et al. "Systematic review: ulcers from aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs--evidence-based recommendations for primary care." Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics (2009). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19788350/

6. Rich, Jonathan D et al. "Greater risk of death and MI in patients with prior aspirin use: results from a large cohort of 52,279 patients with acute coronary syndromes." Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2010). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20946994/

7. Chen, Guang-Di et al. "Salicylate-induced cochlear impairments, cortical hyperactivity and re-tuning, and tinnitus." Hearing Research (2010). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20214971/

8. Chen, Ting et al. "Aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular events in patients with chronic kidney disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Current Vascular Pharmacology (2023). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37259222/

9. Welin, Lennart et al. "Aspirin increases mortality in diabetic patients without cardiovascular disease: a Swedish record linkage study." Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety (2009). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19672841/

10. Smith, Jane. Personal communication, June 25, 2024.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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