Aspirin for primary prevention of CVD: are the right people using it?

J Fam Pract. 2012 Sep;61(9):525-32.


Purpose: Aspirin is recommended for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults at high risk, but little is known about sociodemographic disparities in prophylactic aspirin use. This study examined the association between sociodemographic characteristics and regular aspirin use among adults in Wisconsin who are free of CVD.

Methods: A cross-sectional design was used, and data collected from 2008 to 2010. Regular aspirin use (aspirin therapy) was defined as taking aspirin most days of the week. We found 831 individuals for whom complete data were available for regression analyses and stratified the sample into 2 groups: those for whom aspirin therapy was indicated and those for whom it was not indicated, based on national guidelines.

Results: Of the 268 patients for whom aspirin therapy was indicated, only 83 (31%) were using it regularly, and 102 (18%) of the 563 participants who did not have an aspirin indication were taking it regularly. In the group with an aspirin indication, participants who were older had higher rates of regular aspirin use than younger patients (odds ratio [OR]=1.07; P<.001), and women had significantly higher adjusted odds of regular aspirin use than men (OR=3.49; P=.021). Among those for whom aspirin therapy was not indicated, the adjusted odds of regular aspirin use were significantly higher among older participants (OR=1.07; P<.001) vs their younger counterparts, and significantly lower among Hispanic or nonwhite participants (OR=0.32; P=.063) relative to non-Hispanic whites.

Conclusions: Aspirin therapy is underused by those at high risk for CVD—individuals who could gain cardioprotection from regular use—and overused by those at low risk for CVD, for whom the risk of major bleeding outweighs the potential benefit. Stronger primary care initiatives may be needed to ensure that patients undergo regular screening for aspirin use, particularly middle-aged men at high CVD risk. Patient education may be needed, as well, to better inform people (particularly older, non-Hispanic whites) about the risks of regular aspirin use that is not medically indicated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Health Transition
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence* / ethnology
  • Medication Adherence* / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Primary Prevention* / methods
  • Primary Prevention* / statistics & numerical data
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Aspirin