Most people who take daily baby aspirin don’t have a chronic illness

A poll conducted by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey has revealed that a quarter of Americans take daily low-dose aspirin at some point in their lives, but the majority of those people don’t have heart disease or another chronic illness.

Baby aspirin, which contains 81 milligrams of aspirin compared to the traditional 325 milligrams in an adult tablet, has been a point of contention in recent months as research has both supported and contradicted its use as a preventive medication. It's long been considered a cardioprotective drug, and its efficacy in patients with existing heart disease has been well-documented.

But the poll out of Fairleigh Dickinson suggests 56% of people who take baby aspirin each day don’t have a chronic disease. Eighty-one percent take it at the recommendation of their doctor, while 18% said they started taking low-dose aspirin as a preventive measure without speaking to a health professional.

Though the majority of survey respondents reported taking aspirin for CVD or cancer prevention, the 41% who said they took it as part of their regimen for a chronic illness were twice as likely to use the drug. Seventy-eight percent said they take, have taken or think they’ll take baby aspirin at some point in their lives to prevent heart disease, while another 16% said they thought it was beneficial to one’s overall health.

“Eighty-one milligram baby aspirin has both benefits and risks associated with daily use,” Elif Ozdener, a physician and assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Farleigh, said in a release. “The assumption that aspirin only has health benefits is incorrect. One meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force showed daily or every other day baby aspirin use increased risk of major gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke, especially with increasing age and among men.”

The team’s poll, which included 1,000 people, also found a racial divide in the use of daily low-dose aspirin. Thirty-one percent of white respondents said they used the drug for primary prevention, but just 14% of non-white respondents said the same.

Ultimately, Ozdener said the decision to take or not take daily aspirin should be weighed carefully by a patient and their physician.

“Before this medication is recommended to a patient, healthcare providers decide whether the primary prevention benefits outweigh the risk of bleeding,” she said. “The answer to this question will vary widely from one patient to another.”