The AHA’s latest CVD prevention guidelines advise against taking low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes.  

By Lauren Wicks
Updated: March 20, 2019

An aspirin a day keeps heart attacks away—or does it? According to the latest Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, the AHA and American College of Cardiology no longer recommend taking a daily low-dose aspirin for heart health. After decades of advising low-dose aspirin as an effective preventative measure for heart attacks and stroke, the new 2019 guidelines now say aspirin be used infrequently due to “lack of net benefit.”

This drastic change in the AHA’s guidelines comes after a recent, large-scale study on the subject—the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) Study, which discovered not only was aspirin ineffective in preventing heart problems, but it actually led to a higher chance of hemorrhage than placebo. Upon further review of this study, researchers found the otherwise-healthy participants taking the daily low-dose aspirin were also linked to a higher mortality rate in general.

"Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease," John Hopkins cardiologist Dr. Roger Blumenthal, who co-chaired the new guidelines, said in a statement. "It's much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin."

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Blumenthal went on to say more than 80 percent of all cardiovascular events are preventable—but we are falling short in implementing the proper strategies and lifestyle choices to do so. This is concerning since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with stroke and diabetes not too far behind. These preventative lifestyle strategies are listed in the new preventative guidelines:

  • All adults should consume a healthy diet that emphasizes the intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean vegetable or animal protein, and fish and minimizes the intake of trans fats, red meat and processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sugar-sweetened beverages. For adults with overweight/obesity, counseling and caloric restriction are recommended for achieving and maintaining weight loss.
  • Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes per week of accumulated moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity.
  • All adults should be assessed at every healthcare visit for tobacco use, and those who use tobacco should be assisted and strongly advised to quit.

The bottom line: Eating a more plant-forward, whole foods diet and engaging in daily exercise are beneficial for not only our hearts—but our overall well-being. However, if you are at risk for cardiovascular issues, it is important to consult your doctor before making any drastic lifestyle changes.