If your provider advised you to take a daily aspirin to help your heart health, don’t stop taking it. That is the message issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) following the release of a new study which showed that discontinuing your daily aspirin regimen could put you at a significant risk of heart attack or stroke.

Aspirin, taken in low doses, is used to help reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke. Because aspirin reduces clotting in the arteries, it lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who use the therapy long-term.

“Aspirin is one of the most commonly used drugs especially by cardiologists,” said Dr. Doug Friedman , a cardiologist with Novant Health Cardiology - Winston-Salem . “It has been well-studied and has shown itself to be very effective in past studies. This study reaffirms aspirin’s effectiveness.”

Researchers found that people who stopped taking aspirin but who didn’t stop due to bleeding or an upcoming surgery increased their risk of a cardiovascular event by 37 percent, compared with those who continued daily use of the drug. In patients with a previous history of heart attack or stroke, the risk increased to 46 percent for those who stopped taking aspirin.

The study also found that 1 out of every 74 patients who stopped taking aspirin had an additional cardiovascular event per year and that the higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. “ The risk increased shortly after discontinuation and did not appear to diminish over time,” the study reported.

Nearly 10 to 20 percent of heart attack survivors stop daily aspirin use within the first three years of their cardiac event, according to the AHA.

“Low-dose aspirin therapy is very effective in preventing cardiovascular events in patients with underlying cardiovascular issues,” Friedman said. “It is inexpensive and easy to take but some patients taking aspirin may dismiss it because it is an over-the-counter drug, unlike the prescription medications they are also taking.”

To make it easier remember to take a daily aspirin, Friedman recommends keeping the pills with your other medications.

Friedman said studies have shown that patients could suffer harm within days of deciding to stop taking their daily aspirin.

People at high risk of heart attack or stroke as well as heart attack survivors should take a daily low-dose of aspirin if recommended by their provider, according to the AHA.

Also, don’t stop taking your daily aspirin without consulting your doctor.

Aspirin can cause harm in some situations, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about using this therapy.

Aspirin use increases the risk of bleeding in patients depending on individual circumstances, Friedman pointed out. Because aspirin thins blood, it can cause complications. Patients should not take aspirin if:

  • Have an allergy to or sensitivity to aspirin.

  • Are at risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or stroke.

  • Drink alcohol regularly.

  • Are undergoing medical or dental work.  

If you need a cardiologist, visit Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute .