Do clinicians recommend aspirin to patients for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease?

J Gen Intern Med. 2015 Feb;30(2):155-60. doi: 10.1007/s11606-014-2985-8.


Background: The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released updated guidelines in 2009 recommending aspirin to prevent myocardial infarction among at-risk men and stroke among at-risk women.

Objective: Our aim was to examine clinician aspirin recommendation among eligible persons based on cardiovascular risk scores and USPSTF cutoffs.

Design: We used across-sectional analysis of a current nationally representative sample.

Participants: Participants were aged 40 years and older, and in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (2011-2012).

Main measures: We determined aspirin eligibility for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention for each participant based on reported and assessed cardiovascular risk factors. We assessed men's risk using a published coronary heart disease risk calculator based on Framingham equations, and used a similar calculator for stroke to assess risk for women. We applied the USPSTF risk cutoffs for sex and age that account for offsetting risk for gastrointestinal hemorrhage. We assessed clinician recommendation for aspirin based on participant report.

Results: Among men 45-79 years and women 55-79 years, 87 % of men and 16 % of women were potentially eligible for primary CVD aspirin prevention. Clinician recommendation rates for aspirin among those eligible were low, 34 % for men and 42 % for women. Rates were highest among diabetics (63 %), those 65 to 79 years (52 %) or those in poor health (44 %). In contrast, aspirin recommendation rates were 76 % for CVD secondary prevention. After accounting for patient factors, particularly age, eligibility for aspirin prevention was not significantly associated with receiving a clinician's recommendation for aspirin (AOR 0.99 %; CI 0.7-1.4).

Conclusions: Despite an "A recommendation" from the USPSTF for aspirin for primary prevention of CVD, the majority of men and women potentially eligible for aspirin did not recall a clinical recommendation from their clinician.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aspirin / administration & dosage*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods
  • Physician's Role*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic* / standards
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Primary Prevention / standards


  • Aspirin