Will an Aspirin a Day Add Many More Days to Your Life?

A new study was conducted using data from nine clinical trials involving more than 100,000 people who were randomly assigned to either take an aspirin every day or a placebo, for approximately six years.  The results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and this study is the largest of its kind.

The study found that more people were likely to experience a bleeding incident than those protected from a heart-related episode.  The authors of the study claim that “routine use of aspirin for primary prevention is not warranted and treatment decisions need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.”  Lead researcher Rao Seshasai stated, “The beneficial effect of aspirin on preventing future cardiovascular disease events in people with established heart attacks or strokes is indisputable. We urge people with these conditions not to discontinue their medication unless advised to do so by their physicians for valid reasons.”

For healthy people, the dangers associated with daily aspirin can outweigh the benefits.  Aspirin is a standard treatment for patients who have suffered heart attack or strokes because it is known to thin the blood and prevent clotting.  Doctors often advise healthy patients to take a daily aspirin, prophylactically if they have a positive family history of heart disease.  However, long-term use of aspirin can lead to stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.

The study showed that regular aspirin use might reduce the risk of cardiovascular incidents by 10%. However, this was due to a reduction in non-fatal heart attacks. On the other hand, there was a 30% increase in the risk of life-threatening or serious internal bleeding events.  For every 120 participants treated with aspirin (for approximately six years), one cardiovascular incident was avoided.  But during the same six-year period, one in 73 participants suffered from significant bleeding.

Back in 2009, experts warned that for healthy people, daily doses of aspirin could potentially cause more harm than good.  For most people, the benefits of a daily aspirin simply do not outweigh the risks.  Senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, Natasha Stewart, added, “People who don’t have symptomatic or diagnosed heart disease shouldn’t take aspirin.”

It is probably safe to say that if you follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you won’t need to take daily aspirin, unless of course, you have a headache from all the worrying that this causes!

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