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Why Aren’t More People Taking Aspirin to Prevent Vascular Dementia?


SALICYLIC ACID prevents vascular dementia, stroke and heart attack. Where appropriate, U.S. guidelines recommend getting it in food or from baby aspirin. Why don’t doctors recommend it more often? Which foods work best?

A majority of middle-aged men and women eligible to take aspirin to prevent heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia do not recall their doctors ever telling them to do so, according to a University of Rochester (UR) study of a national sample of more than 3,000 patients.

Published online by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the finding illustrates a common disconnect between public health guidelines and what occurs in clinical practice.

Aspirin as Prevention Therapy

The University of Rochester (UR) study is consistent with other research showing that physicians often do not recommend aspirin as prevention therapy to the general population, despite established guidelines by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

Aspirin from Food

Diet is one way to get the health benefits of aspirin, without the problems from pills. In the following video, Dr. Michael Greger from, one of the web’s most authoritative sites on diet and nutrition, discusses how to get a daily dose of aspiring by adjusting one’s diet.

Aspirin via changes to one’s diet are not for everyone, easy as it sounds. So why don’t doctors simply prescribe a pill?

Several reasons might explain the reluctance, such as competing demands and limited time to properly assess a patient’s eligibility for aspirin, according to lead author Kevin A. Fiscella, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Family Medicine at the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Uncertainty about the benefits of aspirin therapy versus potential harms like bleeding in the digestive tract, also hinder physicians’ decisions, the study said.

Vascular Dementia & Vasucular Systems

The vascular system is the system that carries blood to all parts of the body, including the brain. Vascular dementia is typically caused by an upset to the vascular blood flow, which can damage or kill brain cells. A stroke or cardiovascular problems often are the triggers of vascular dementia.

For the University of Rochester (UR) study, Fiscella’s group analyzed data from 3,439 patients included in the 2011-’12 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). None of the patients had cardiovascular disease, but all qualified for aspirin therapy based on their 10-year risk score for factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and use of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Of the sample, 87 percent of men and 16 percent of women were eligible to take aspirin as a preventive measure. But when they were asked the question — “Doctors and other health care providers sometimes recommend that you take a low-dose aspirin each day to prevent heart attack, strokes, or cancer. Have you ever been told to do this?”  — a low rate of 34 percent of the men and 42 percent of the women said yes.

Physician Enthusiasm

Co-author John Bisognano, M.D., Ph.D., director of outpatient cardiology services at UR Medicine, said most physicians can agree on approaches to medical care in immediately life-threatening situations, but have less enthusiasm to quickly embrace preventive guidelines, particularly when they involve wide-ranging interventions for a large segment of the population.

New studies that present conflicting data or re-interpret older data also complicate the issue and can be confusing for patients, he said. Despite the USPSTF guidelines for aspirin being published in 2009, for example, the FDA declined to approve the same recommendations as recently as last spring.

“Patients often view changes as an illustration that folks in the medical field can’t really make up their minds,” said Bisognano, professor of Medicine. “Changes can undermine a practitioner’s or patient’s enthusiasm to immediately endorse new guidelines because they wonder if it will change again in three years.”

Science & Medical Practice

But science and medical practice is fluid, he said, and the only way to move the field forward is to continually understand and look for ways to apply the new data and avoid assumptions of the past.

The study also noted that using expanded primary care teams of nurses, medical assistants, and health educators may help to reduce the volume of decisions that rest solely with the physician at the office visit. Sharing care can improve agreement between published guidelines, the use of risk models, and actual practice, the study said.

The authors report no conflicts, and no external funding sources.

University of Rochester Medical Center

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August 22, 2014 11:34 am

Yes, God forbid they should miss a golf game!

B. Berger

B. Berger

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