Low-dose aspirin is a painkiller that is also commonly used to keep conditions such as heart disease and stroke at bay.
However, new research reveals that this might not be a good idea after all, particularly for individuals who do not have a history with the conditions they're trying to prevent.
It turns out that low-dose aspirin could lead to bleeding in the head.
The Link Between Aspirin And Head Bleeding
In a new study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers examined the association between taking low-dose aspirin and bleeding in the skull.
The team analyzed data from 13 previous studies that included more than 130,000 individuals from ages 42 to 74. All of the participants had no history of heart attacks or strokes, but to prevent these issues, they were prescribed either low-dose aspirin (75 to 100 milligrams) or a placebo.
Findings show that the subjects that took the placebo had a 0.46 percent risk of head bleeding. On the other hand, those who took the aspirin were found with a 0.63 percent risk, which is equivalent to two out of every 1,000 people. Additionally, patients of Asian ethnicity and those with a low BMI are at even higher risk.
According to the authors, the magnitude of these effects may be modest, but they're clinically relevant.
"Given that the many individuals in the general population have a very low risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular events, if low-dose aspirin is given universally, adverse outcomes from intracranial hemorrhage may outweigh the beneficial effects of low-dose aspirin," they explained.
The team, led by Wen-Yi Huang of Taiwan's Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, pointed out that taking low-dose aspirin to prevent cardiovascular issues aren't well-established. With the additional risk of potentially catastrophic intracranial hemorrhage, it's important that individuals exercise caution with these medications without symptomatic cardiovascular disease.
Experts' Warning Regarding Aspirin
Aside from this new study, three other studies recently found evidence that taking low-dose aspirin daily is a futile exercise that may even increase the risk of internal bleeding and death.
Due to these new findings, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines in March 2019, saying that aspirin is no longer recommended as a preventive measure for older individuals without high-risk conditions or an existing heart disease.
"Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease," Dr. Roger Blumenthal, a John Hopkins cardiologist who co-chaired the new guidelines, said in a CNN report.
Blumenthal added that it's better to improve lifestyle habits and keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control.