Heart attack survivors who don’t adhere to their daily aspirin regimen face higher risks of another heart attack, stroke, or death. The adherence rate to aspirin has dropped progressively over the years. However, not all heart attack survivors are suitable candidates for aspirin therapy.
According to a recent study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2023, heart attack patients who fail to maintain a consistent aspirin intake regimen are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing recurrent heart attacks, strokes, or even death. Dr. Anna Meta Kristensen of Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, Denmark, who spearheaded the research, based her findings on data from the Danish nationwide health registries. The study took into account patients aged 40 and above who had their first heart attack between 2004 and 2017.
The parameters for measuring aspirin adherence were straightforward:
- Patients who consumed aspirin for 80% of the time or less were considered non-adherent.
- Those who took it more than 80% of the time were deemed adherent.
The research tracked the aspirin adherence rate over a period of eight years and showed a gradual decline in the number of patients consistently taking the drug. The adherence rate dropped from 90% two years after the heart attack to 81% at the eight-year mark.
Significance of Aspirin
Aspirin, a commonly recommended drug post-heart attack, plays a crucial role in preventing blood clots by hindering platelets from clumping together. This reduces the possibility of subsequent heart attacks and strokes. Dr. Deepak Bhatt from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City stressed the importance of long-term aspirin intake post a cardiac event, remarking that even inexpensive, life-saving drugs like aspirin often see global adherence issues.
Risks and Benefits
While the benefits of aspirin post a heart attack are undeniable, the reasons for its declining use over time remain under-researched. However, it’s speculated that the potential gastrointestinal issues linked with aspirin might deter some patients. The drug may elevate the risk of stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. To counteract these side effects, Dr. Silvia Castelletti, a cardiologist based in Milan, suggests that patients take aspirin with meals and also consume medications that protect the stomach lining.
Underuse of Aspirin
Other studies support the findings of Dr. Kristensen’s research. A notable study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the global underutilization of aspirin post-heart attack. Astonishingly, less than half of the heart attack or stroke survivors worldwide maintain a consistent aspirin regimen. Dr. Sang Gune K. Yoo from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis emphasized the need for multi-pronged strategies to boost aspirin adherence, such as patient education and increased availability of the drug.
Who Should Take Aspirin?
It’s crucial to note that aspirin therapy isn’t suitable for every heart attack survivor. Those allergic to aspirin should avoid it post-heart attack, as highlighted by Dr. Castelletti. However, for the majority of patients, consistent adherence to aspirin can be a potential lifesaver.
The study presented at the ESC Congress 2023 underscores the critical importance of adhering to aspirin therapy for heart attack survivors. As aspirin has proven benefits in preventing recurrent heart attacks and strokes, it’s crucial for healthcare professionals and caregivers to stress its significance and ensure patients understand the potential risks of non-adherence.