Daily aspirin even in small doses for the prevention of a heart attack or stroke should be avoided as the potential harms are fatal, a study reveals.
About one-in-four American adults age 40 or older take aspirin every day even though they have no history of stroke or heart disease.
Currently, aspirin plays a first aid role to prevent heart attack or stroke and is often recommended to patients between 50 to 69 years old who are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Consequently, this study examined the benefits and harms of aspirin used for primary prevention of cardiovascular events.
Dr Mark Ebell, the study’s author, said:
“We shouldn’t just assume that everyone will benefit from low-dose aspirin, and in fact the data show that the potential benefits are similar to the potential harms for most people who have not had a cardiovascular event and are taking it to try to prevent a first heart attack or stroke.”
It was about 30 years ago that aspirin was first found to lower the risk of heart attacks.
Studies thereafter have found evidence that aspirin can lessen colon cancer and stroke risks as well as heart attacks.
However, taking aspirin is too risky and has serious side-effects such as bleeding in the brain and stomach.
Dr Ebell said:
“If you look back in the 1970s and ’80s when a lot of these original studies were done, patients were not taking statin drugs to control cholesterol, their blood pressure was not as well controlled, and they weren’t getting screenings for colorectal cancer.”
Dr Ebell and his colleague looked into patient’s data from aspirin studies between 1978 to 2005.
The data was alarming as for 1,000 patients on aspirin treatment, there were less cardiovascular incidents but more haemorrhages.
Dr Ebell said:
“About 1 in 300 persons who took aspirin for five years experienced a brain bleed.
That’s pretty serious harm.
This type of bleeding can be fatal.
It can be disabling, certainly.
One in 300 is not something that the typical doctor is going to be able to pick up on in their practice.
That’s why we need these big studies to understand small but important increases in risk.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal of Family Practice (Moriarty & Ebell, 2019).