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Aspirin wards off heart attack--just don’t stop taking it, study warns

For people who’ve suffered a heart attack or are at risk for one, low doses of aspirin are a commonly prescribed apple-a-day to ward off future heart attacks. 

But for some patients on the regimen, it’s a treatment that should be taken ... seriously. In a new study, patients with a history of heart disease who had recently stopped low-dose aspirin were more likely to have a heart attack.

European researchers tracked nearly 40,000 people with a history of heart disease, age 50 to 84, who had just started taking between 75 and 300 milligrams of aspirin per day.

Within up to eight years of follow-up, some adhered to the treatment, while others stopped refilling their aspirin prescriptions. Of those who stopped, some patients switched to new treatments or non-prescription aspirin, had safety concerns over aspirin or, most commonly, didn’t have a clinical reason.

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Those who had recently quit the regimen (within the previous one to six months) were 63% more likely to suffer a non-fatal heart attack than those who continued.

Even stopping aspirin for 15 days was associated with the short-term risk. And the heart attack risk existed regardless of how long the patient had been taking aspirin. The study was published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

Why patients stop taking the aspirin treatment, and how to encourage patients to stay on it, needs further research, the authors conclude. The Mayo Clinic has more here about who can benefit from daily aspirin. 

healthkey@tribune.com

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