Healthy adults who take daily aspirin to
stave off heart disease may be inviting more harm than benefit, according to a
new review of past studies.
Adults face a crush of conflicting health
messages about aspirin and the role it plays as a preventive medicine.
In an attempt to bring clarity to the
topic, UK researchers sifted through the most recent evidence from nine
randomised controlled trials - which are considered medicine's gold standard -
and other systematic reviews of such trials.
They found a total of 27 studies between
2008 and 2012 that fell within their criteria."Too many healthy people
think that aspirin will prevent heart attacks and cancer," said Dr Peter
Sandercock of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of
Edinburgh in Scotland.
aspirin improve your health?
Sandercock has extensive research
experience in this subject, but was not involved in the current
study."This shows that if you are healthy, with no symptoms of
cardiovascular disease, then it's not sensible to take regular aspirin. It
won't improve your health," he told Reuters Health.
The study, he said, reminded him of another
recent report that suggested vitamin supplements may not have clear benefits
for healthy people.
"There is a plethora of evidence in
this area but nobody has drawn together the advantages and disadvantages of
aspirin in a systematic way," said Paul Sutcliffe of Warwick Medical
School at the University of Warwick in England.
He led the study published in the
open-access journal PLOS ONE."We need to be extremely careful about
promoting the daily use without fully understanding all the evidence,"
Sutcliffe told Reuters Health."All I would say is to not stop taking
aspirin without talking to your doctor," he added.
diseases leads to clots
People who have had strokes or heart
attacks have a hardening of their arteries, which leads to the formation of
blood clots, Sandercock said. Various cardiovascular diseases contribute to the
formation of these clots and daily aspirin is widely known to break down those clots
and prevent further problems, he added.
Past research has generally shown that a
person who experiences a minor stroke has a zero to 15 percent chance of
experiencing another stroke the following year, Sandercock said."Aspirin
could reduce the stroke risk by one-quarter, and that big benefit outweighs the
small bleeding risk," Sandercock said.
In their review, Sutcliffe and his
colleagues linked regular aspirin intake to the avoidance of 33 to 46 deaths
from any cause in 10 000 people over a 10-year period. However, 46 to 49 major
bleeds and 68 to 117 gastrointestinal bleeds in 10 000 people in a 10-year
period also occurred as a result.
This translates to a 37% increased risk of
stomach bleeding and 38% increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, the researchers
report."The study is just another meta-analysis of published overall trial
results and contains no new data," said Dr Peter Rothwell, a clinical
neurologist at the University of Oxford in England. He was not involved in the
Read: Aspirin linked to stomach bleeding risks
"The question of the balance of risk
and benefit of aspirin is important," Rothwell wrote in an email.
"But superficial meta-analyses of very limited published data are not,
unfortunately, able to cast any useful light."Sandercock noted that
"science is cumulative."
"Health messages get very confusing in
the press - for example, you hear butter is good for you and then that you
shouldn't eat butter," Sandercock said."Sometimes we need to remind
people of good health messages like this one," he added, which shows that
"If you are healthy, the harms of daily aspirin cancel out the