Low-dose aspirin should not routinely be used to prevent heart attacks and strokes, contrary to official guidance, say researchers. Analysis of data from over 100,000 clinical trial participants found the risk of harm largely canceled out the benefits of taking the drug. Only those who have already had a heart attack or stroke should be advised to take a daily aspirin, they found. The Lancet study should help clarify a "confusing" issue.
Experts in the UK, US and Europe recommend aspirin for people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke, but are at high risk of cardiovascular disease because of factors such as age, blood pressure and cholesterol level. “ We don't have good evidence that, for healthy people, the benefits of long-term aspirin exceed the risks by an appropriate margin,” states study leader Professor Colin Baigent.
This latest research provides clearer evidence because it is based on data from individuals, the researchers said. They looked at heart attacks and strokes and major bleeds - a potential side effect of aspirin - in six primary prevention trials, involving 95,000 people at low to average risk and 16 trials involving 17,000 people at high risk - because they had already had a heart attack or stroke. Use of aspirin in the lower-risk group was found to reduce non-fatal heart attacks by around a fifth, with no difference in the risk of stroke or deaths from vascular causes. But it also increased the risk of internal bleeding by around a third.
"This important study does suggest people shouldn't take aspirin unless indicated by disease." Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation said: "It is better for doctors to weigh up the benefit and risk of prescribing aspirin on an individual basis, rather than develop a blanket guideline suggesting everyone at risk of heart disease is routinely given aspirin."
Bonnie - When I first read the study, I was elated and sad at the same time. My long-fought battle against the sweeping recommendation of aspirin in healthy individuals was a major personal victory. However, because I have seen long-term aspirin use cause such destruction in some of my clients, my heart went out to their suffering. I urge you to pass along this study's findings to friends, family, and co-workers. It is imperative that the message gets out.
Naturally, the question becomes, "what can I take now to prevent cardiovascular disease?" Most of you already take them: EPA/DHA omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E. They have always been better alternatives to aspirin.
I will be interested to see how much media coverage this study gets in the U.S. Even though it appears in one of the most prestigious journals in the world and covered 100,000 subjects, it goes against almost everything the U.S. public has been told over the last few decades.