Prescribing aspirin for patients who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease is a common practice among many doctors as a way to prevent future heart attacks. But current research is causing some in the medical community to re-think that advice as unintended consequences are being discovered.
One study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that taking aspirin on a regular basis to prevent heart attacks and strokes can increase the risk of a major bleeding episode nearly 50 percent.
The theory behind prescribing aspirin stems from is its ability to thin the blood which could make it easier to pump and keep flowing. While there is some evidence aspirin reduces the risks of a second episode for those who previously had a stroke or heart attack, this study found it comes with an added risk for bleeding.
Scientists as King’s College London and King’s College Hospital studied the outcomes of trials including more than 1,000 participants with no known history of cardiovascular disease. Participants included those who took aspirin and others who took a placebo or had not treatment at all.
Aspirin use was associated with an 11 percent decrease in the risk of a cardiovascular event but it raised the risk of a major bleeding event 43 percent compared to those who did not take it.
"This study demonstrates that there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine aspirin use in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths in people without cardiovascular disease,” said study author Dr. Sean Zheng.
"There has been more uncertainty surrounding what should be done in patients who are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and in patients with diabetes,” Zheng added. “This study shows that while cardiovascular events may be reduced in these patients, these benefits are matched by an increased risk of major bleeding events. Aspirin use requires discussion between the patient and their physician, with the knowledge that any small potential cardiovascular benefits are weighed up against the real risk of severe bleeding."