Taking low-dose aspirin used to be considered an easy way to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Doctors may still recommend this treatment for people with heart disease. However, a new analysis suggests that healthy individuals probably should not take aspirin to protect their hearts.
Why Not Take Aspirin for Your Heart?
The researchers looked at the results of 67 meta-analyses of both observational studies and controlled trials covering nearly 12,000 participants (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, June 2, 2020). The pros and cons of aspirin are both related to its anticlotting activity. It keeps blood platelets from sticking together.
Although the investigators concluded that aspirin can lower risk of a heart attack or stroke, they found that it increases the risk of bleeding. Hemorrhages in the digestive tract (bleeding ulcers, for example) or the brain can be lethal.
The analysis showed that newer medications may do a better job of preventing cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, they also carry a higher possibility of dangerous bleeding.
Do These Conclusions Apply to You?
As you decide whether or not you should take aspirin, talk with your healthcare provider about your risk for cardiovascular complications. The people in these studies did not have heart disease. For them, the risks of aspirin and other anticoagulant drugs were greater than the benefits. But people who have heart disease might benefit if they take aspirin. That is an assessment they should undertake with their doctors so that both pros and cons can be carefully weighed in context.