Taking a daily aspirin may decrease your chance of suffering a heart attack, but new research suggests it also creates an increased risk of suffering severe internal bleeding.
Doctors have long been recommending the use of a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke. However, the findings of a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) appears to call this practice into question.
Researchers from the United Kingdom conducted a meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials including more than 164,000 participants. Patients were an average of 62 years old and had not suffered any type of heart attack or stroke, or had an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Patients were either given a daily aspirin or a daily placebo. They then underwent an average of 12 months of follow-up.
According to the findings, the benefits of daily aspirin use were seen, but the risks were equally prevalent.
Aspirin use was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events. Patients who took the aspirin had 0.38 percent decreased risk of having a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular related death. However, those who took the aspirin also faced an 0.47 percent higher absolute increased risk of major internal bleeding.
Doctors often recommend adults who haven’t had a heart attack or stroke, but have a high risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke, take a daily aspirin to prevent those events. This is considered primary prevention.
The findings of the new study put this practice into question. Health guidelines call for doctors to balance the benefits and the risks before recommending a course of treatment.
A number of previous studies have also warned about potential bleeding risks linked to regular aspirin use. A study published last year indicated elderly patients have a greater risk of bleeding if they take aspirin compared to younger adults. Those patients also may not experience the same cardiovascular preventive measures as younger patients.
Another study noted diabetic patients had improved risk of cardiovascular events. Yet, diabetic patients also experienced increased risk of bleeding after taking a daily aspirin.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin only if a patient has at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke over the next decade. These patients should also not have a heightened risk of bleeding.