Individuals who do not take daily aspirin after having a heart attack are more likely to experience a further myocardial infarction, a stroke, or death, according to data presented at the ESC Congress in 2023.
“Our findings suggest that not taking aspirin as prescribed after a heart attack is linked to a higher risk of having another heart attack, a stroke or dying,” said study author Dr Anna Meta Kristensen of Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital. Frederiksberg, Denmark.
“We recommend that all patients who have had a heart attack stay adherent to their aspirin in accordance with guidelines until randomised controlled trials have proven otherwise, and clinical guidelines have been changed.”
Aspirin must be taken right away following a heart attack because it lowers the chance of having another heart attack or stroke by preventing blood clots from forming.
However, the prognosis following myocardial infarction has improved and the long-term effects of aspirin are now less obvious since treatment and diagnostic techniques have developed recently.
Aspirin raises the risk of bleeding because it decreases blood clot formation, and as time passes after a heart attack, the ratio of cardiovascular advantages to bleeding risks shifts.
This study assessed the risks of stopping long-term aspirin use after a heart attack to those of continuing use in a modern context.
The study used data from Danish nationwide health registries.
It included patients aged 40 years and over who had a first-time heart attack from 2004 through 2017, were treated with a coronary stent and took aspirin as prescribed during the first year after their heart attack.
Patients who were on anticoagulants or had a stroke or recurrent heart attack within that first year were excluded.
Adherence to aspirin was evaluated at two, four, six and eight years after the heart attack.
In Denmark, every time a patient picks up a prescription of aspirin, the number of tablets and date of collection are recorded in registries.
Adherence to aspirin at each of the four time points was assessed as the proportion of days patients had their pills over the preceding two years.
Patients on aspirin for 80% or less of the time were considered non-adherent (i.e., not taking aspirin as prescribed) while those on aspirin more than 80% of the time were considered adherent (i.e., taking aspirin as prescribed).
At each time point, patients were excluded if they had experienced another heart attack, a stroke, died, or had been started on anticoagulants or P2Y12 inhibitors.
Dr Kristensen explained: “We assessed the effects of long-term aspirin use in patients who were not receiving other medications for the prevention of heart attack or stroke.
“Both anticoagulants and P2Y12 inhibitors are agents that, similar to aspirin, work to prevent the formation of blood clots. Therefore, patients undergoing such treatments were excluded from our study.”
Dr Kristensen added: “Our results should be interpreted with caution because they show an association but do not establish causality.
“Since the study is registry-based, we do not have information about the specific reasons as to why patients did not take their aspirin.”