The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Dangerous Is It to Stop Taking Aspirin?

People who stop taking aspirin are at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. Patients should continue aspirin unless there is a strong reason to stop.
LLANO TX-AUG 16 2015: Bottle of Bayer Low Dose Aspirin against white background. Recommended by doctors to reduce chance of Heart Attack.

Aspirin, a drug that has been easing pain and even saving lives for more than a hundred years, gets very little respect. Perhaps because it is so old or maybe because it is available over the counter, people don’t tend to take it seriously. But we should. It turns out that people ought to take great care if they decide to stop taking aspirin.

What Could Happen If You Stop Taking Aspirin?

Q. I read your column about a woman who stopped aspirin and had a heart attack. Almost thirty years ago I started taking aspirin.

In December, 2015, I was getting ready to have shoulder replacement surgery. There were a lot of scans and tests to be sure everything looked good before the surgery. They ALL checked out fine. A week before the surgery, I had to stop taking my aspirin, omega-3 fish oil and OTC supplements.

Two days before the surgery, I woke up fuzzy. As it turned out, I’d had a blood clot go to my brain and cause a mild stroke. After three months of heart monitoring and tests, the neurology doctors said it was rare, but they think going off aspirin caused the blood to clot and stop up a small artery.

Serious Consequences for People Who Stop Taking Aspirin:

A. Swedish researchers reported that patients who stop low-dose aspirin appear to be more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke (Sundstrom et al, Circulation, online, Sept. 25, 2017). They hypothesized that this may be a rebound blood-clotting effect.

This new information poses a dilemma for surgeons. They often advise patients to stop taking aspirin prior to surgery to prevent excessive bleeding. This new information may call for a re-evaluation of the protocol. Unfortunately, we do not have any studies to show us the safest way to stop taking aspirin.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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My husband had back surgery back in 1978. The dr told him after the surgery to take aspirin every day. My husband took 2 aspirins aday everyday up until 1999. He was djust fine then he was having a problem with heartburn. The dr. Told him to stop taking aspirin as it causes ulcers. So he stopped. This was not the dr that told him to take the adpirin.

Three months later he ended up having a quadruple bypass and 8 months later he had a lower abdominal aeortic aneurysm repair. Which was immediately followed by a stroke. I was devastated. I lost him in 2016 after 50 years of marriage. He should have never stopped taking aspirin. That was the best thing that the back surgeon could have done for him. He should never have stopped taking aspirin.

I had a brain bleed in June. I was on Warfarin. Also 81 mg aspirin. I am now off both. The Cardiologist is ready for me to go back on it, but the neurologist said not yet after looking at my latest scan. I have AFib. I’m very nervous about being off these 2 medicines. I will never be on a blood thinner again, but hope to get on low dose aspirin.0

It goes along with the military’ APC’s, the all purpose medication

‘I recently had a total hip replacement, and the hospital advised my stopping fish oil and turmeric one week before – but allowed aspirin (81mg) until the day before surgery. With immediate restart of two 81mg tablets per day after surgery and for three weeks thereafter to help prevent blood clots (along with a leg pump). Resumed all my “dailies” after that.

So glad they were seemingly up on the danger you write about – and I’ve been taking baby aspirin for decades, on my own initiative. It’s a drug that has proven to be a true miracle drug.

I have had 2 cataract surgeries. I take 81mg aspirin once a day. For each surgery the doctor requested that I stop the aspirin 5 days before surgery. The first surgery went fine. The second surgery was performed approximately 2 years later. 3 days after the second surgery I noticed a blind spot in my right eye near the center in the lower right quadrant. Further testing indicated a narrow optical nerve channel with a 27% chance that it would occur in the other eye. I firmly believe that the blind spot was caused by the aspirin stoppage resulting in a blood clot in the small vein supplying the optical nerve. Atrophy of the nerve caused the blind spot. I have 20/20 vision for distance. Readers for reading.

I have been taking 325gr aspirin for 16 years ever since triple bypass surgery. Two years ago, before my doctor retired, we were reviewing my meds she said “why are you taking 325gr instead of 81gr?”. I told her “you never told me to change”. Two weeks after I switched to 81gr I had a minor stroke but I didn’t realize what happened. The following week I had a significant stroke affecting my right leg. I thought it was a pinched nerve and didn’t seek medical help until the next day. I was `very fortunate to regain the use of my leg but still have some weakness and sudden colapse of my right knee. The emergency room DR. told me to go back to the 325gr and stay on them for the rest of my life. RB

I was recently put on a daily regimen of lose-dose aspirin in response to an idiopathic branch retinal arterial occlusion (eye stroke). I read and appreciated your newsletter article on the benefits of aspirin and resigned myself to this. However, I have been dumbfounded that not one out of four different doctors who recommended aspirin asked about H-Pylori (which I had 2 years ago) nor suggested taking vitamin C and a B complex to help mitigate gastric effects. I did my own research and am hoping to protect my stomach lining for many years to come.

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