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My dad has been taking a baby aspirin every single day for over 10 years now, ever since he had open heart surgery.
In fact, like many people, my dad started on the over-the-counter medication at his doctor’s recommendation since daily low-dose aspirin treatment has been shown to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with conditions like coronary artery disease.
But in just the past few years, some studies have come out touting the benefits of a daily low-dose aspirin to help stave off cancer and possibly even dementia. That meant people without the need for the benefit based on their heart health, were suddenly “supplementing” with aspirin.
When it comes to aspirin, though, there are side effects — sometimes dangerous ones. If you’re considering using aspirin to improve your health, it’s important to weigh potential benefits against the risks, so let’s see what the latest research indicates…
An aspirin a day — or not
The results of a massive clinical trial involving aspirin were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine… And, when I say massive, I mean massive.
The researchers followed 19,114 older people in the U.S. and Australia for over 4 ½ years and discovered that:
- If you have any type of heart or vascular disease that puts you at risk for future heart attacks and strokes, aspirin can be a good thing and could save your life.
But, if you’re healthy, the very little if any benefits you receive from taking a daily low-dose aspirin come with risks that could be more than you’ve bargained for.
In fact, they found that low-dose aspirin therapy (100 milligrams a day) had no effect on survival free of dementia or disability.
Among the people randomly assigned to take aspirin, 90.3 percent were still alive at the end of the treatment without physical disability or dementia, compared with 90.5 percent of those taking a placebo. And they found:
- The rates of physical disability were similar.
- The rates of dementia were almost identical in both groups.
The group taking aspirin actually had an increased risk of death compared to the placebo group — something that according to the researchers was probably due to the increased number of cancer deaths in those taking aspirin.
And, aspirin didn’t offer added protection from heart attacks and strokes in people who were healthy when they began taking aspirin — with rates of both being similar in the aspirin-takers and the placebo group.
Don’t forget the risks
In other words, daily low-dose aspirin use offered no benefits whatsoever for healthy people… But, it did come with risks, including:
- Significantly increased risk of bleeding
- Hemorrhagic stroke
- Bleeding in the brain
- Gastrointestinal hemorrhages
- Hemorrhages at other sites that required transfusion or hospitalization
Pretty scary, right?
All in all, the researchers concluded that it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to taking a daily low-dose aspirin but that they saw no clinical benefits of the practice in healthy people and plenty of risks.
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- Daily low-dose aspirin found to have no effect on healthy life span in older people — NIH/National Institute on Aging