According to the findings of new research, the risks associated with regularly taking aspirin may outweigh the potential benefits for prevention of heart disease.
In a study published earlier this month in the medical journal PLOS One, researchers from the U.K. indicate that older adults taking aspirin only see a small decrease in their risk of heart problems, yet regular aspirin regimens may significantly increase their risk of suffering a stroke or bleeding problems.
Aspirin is often recommended as a means of preventing heart disease and cancer, but the researchers noted that the overall benefits are actually uncertain. They conducted a meta-analysis of 27 different studies and found that absolute benefits and harm from aspirin was low. However, the review left them questioning whether taking aspirin for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention was worth the risk.
According to the findings, aspirin use likely prevented the deaths of 33 to 46 people out of 10,000 over a 10-year period. In comparison, during that same time period, there were 46 to 49 major bleeding events and 68 to 117 gastrointestinal bleeding events among the same 10,000 people. Researchers found that the risk of stomach bleeding increased 37% and the risk of stroke increased 38%.
“We investigated and synthesized evidence on the risks and benefits of aspirin for the primary prevention and found that benefits of aspirin for primary prevention of CVD are modest, remain statistically uncertain, and are an order of magnitude less than those observed for secondary prevention of CVD,” the researchers concluded. “In contrast, harms (especially bleeding) occur at a higher frequency (apparently very high frequency in some populations) and estimated rates are based on stronger evidence.”
The researchers determined that at population level, using aspirin for prevention of CVD did more harm than good, but could make no determination on its effects on cancer.