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Heart-smart or not? Daily aspirin may not be worth the risk for many

A pair of hands holding a glass of water and two white tablets.

Feb. 5, 2019—Should people without heart disease take aspirin to keep their hearts healthy?

That approach is controversial. Medical recommendations differ about whether aspirin should be used to prevent a first heart attack or stroke in people without cardiovascular disease.

Now a new study may add clarity. It found that aspirin used this way does have slight benefits. But this treatment—known as primary prevention—also carries a risk of severe internal bleeding.

A closer look

The study looked at 13 past clinical trials, each involving more than 1,000 adults with no known history of cardiovascular disease. Each trial tested aspirin against a placebo or no treatment.

It found that regular aspirin use was tied to an 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events. But it was also linked to a 43 percent jump in major bleeding events. That included bleeding in the brain and gastrointestinal tract.

The full study appears in JAMA.

Routine use not advised

The bottom line? If you don't have heart disease, the risks of taking a daily aspirin appear to cancel out the benefits. Even for people with a raised risk of heart disease or diabetes, there's still too much uncertainty about aspirin's impact to routinely advise it, the researchers said. Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

Discover when aspirin is good for your heart—plus much more about this small but powerful pill and heart disease.

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