Nearly one-quarter of Americans over the age of 40 have reported taking aspirin daily even if they don’t have a history of heart disease or stroke.
That’s a problem, says study author University of Georgia College of Public Health researcher, Dr. Mark Ebell.
The current recommendation for taking aspirin as primary form of heart attack or stroke prevention is limited to adults aged 50 to 69 who have an increased cardiovascular risk.
“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,” said Dr. Ebell.
Dr. Ebell and his colleague Frank Moriarty of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland compared aspirin studies using patient data from 1978 to 2002 to four large-scale aspirin trials occurring after 2005, when statin use and colorectal cancer screenings had become more widespread.
They found that for 1,000 patients treated for five years, there were four fewer cardiovascular events and seven more major hemorrhages. Dr. Ebell was particularly alarmed by the number of brain bleeds experienced by aspirin users.
“About 1 in 300 persons who took aspirin for 5 years experienced a brain bleed. That’s pretty serious harm. This type of bleeding can be fatal. It can be disabling, certainly,” he said.
Dr. Ebell cautions people who are concerned about their cardiovascular risk, but who haven’t had a heart attack or stroke, to talk with their doctors about other ways to prevent a major event.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on December 20