Aspirin bottle

For heart attack survivors and people at high risk for one, a low-dose aspirin is part of the daily routine to prevent a heart attack or stroke. But for those who don’t stick to that routine, the rate of heart attacks, strokes or deaths from one of those causes goes up 37 percent, a new study shows.

In broad patient settings, other research has shown up to 30 percent of patients stop taking aspirin, a drug that inhibits clotting and lowers the risk of cardiovascular events.

The study, published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, examined the records of more than 600,000 people over age 40 who took low-dose aspirin for heart attack and stroke prevention between 2005 and 2009.

During three years of follow-up, there were 62,690 cardiovascular events. Researchers found that one in 74 patients who stopped taking aspirin had an additional cardiovascular event per year. The risk increased soon after stopping aspirin therapy and did not appear to diminish over time.

“Low-dose aspirin therapy is a simple and inexpensive treatment,” said Johan Sundstrom, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

[Heart disease and aspirin therapy]

Studies have suggested patients experience a “rebound effect” after stopping aspirin treatment, possibly due to increased clotting levels from the loss of aspirin’s blood-thinning effects. Because of the large number of patients on aspirin and the high number who stop treatment, the importance of a rebound effect may be significant, Sundstrom said.

“As long as there’s no bleeding or any major surgery scheduled, our research shows the significant public health benefits that can be gained when patients stay on aspirin therapy,” he said.

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]