For decades, it has been recommended to take a daily dose of aspirin as a means to prevent stroke or heart attack, and many of us do exactly that, considering it part of our daily preventative health routine. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be true. On the contrary, daily aspirin use has been found time and time again to harm human health in the long term, systematically increasing one’s risks of internal bleeding. According to these recent changes in international aspirin regulations, the majority of people, with some rare exceptions, shouldn’t take aspirin daily.
Who Should Stop Using Aspirin?
According to data from the National Health Survey in 2017, 7 million Americans are taking aspirin on the daily without consulting their physician. If we look at seniors, this trend intensifies even further, with nearly half of Americans past the age of 70 taking a daily small dose of aspirin. And this is only in the United States alone, with similar trends being also reported in other countries, such as Australia.
Clearly, the public is confused, as, for decades, they have been advised that micro-dosing aspirin can protect them from stroke and heart attack. In fact, in the past, everyone past their 50's, even healthy individuals with no risks of developing heart disease were suggested to take a small dose of aspirin to protect themselves from cardiovascular events and disability.
Recent large-scale research shows a very different picture… In fact, an increasing number of health organizations changed their tactics of recommending aspirin from a cap approach to a more selective treatment for a small group of patients. But why is that?
The main reason for such a seemingly-rapid shift in perspective is due to several large-scale studies establishing that aspirin may actually not be effective or can even be harmful to the vast majority of people, with a few exceptions. According to one double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, placebo and aspirin were found to be indistinguishable in their ability to protect patients from disability over the course of 5 years.
Other studies further worsened the picture: not only was the aspirin incapable of protecting a person from disability, but it also increases one’s risk of mortality and internal bleeding.
The study reporting the internal bleeding risks looked at nearly 20,000 people over the course of nearly 5 years and found that daily aspirin intake significantly increased the risk of internal hemorrhage while not being able to protect the individuals from cardiovascular events compared to placebo. So, taking a sugar pill was just as effective at preventing stroke or a heart attack as was a small dose of aspirin, but unlike the placebo, aspirin also raised one's risk of internal bleeding.
The second study that had the same number of participants, nearly 20,000 individuals, past the age of 70 also found that otherwise healthy persons who took aspirin daily were more likely to die over the course of 5 years than those who took a placebo. All of these studies raised the alarm with regards to daily aspirin use, but one final study from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, helped us understand more specifically who can and who cannot benefit from regular aspirin use.
The study aimed to isolate the group of people who would benefit from daily aspirin use. The team of researchers looked at 250.000 participants in the age range of 30-79 over the course of 5 years and found that the people who were more likely to benefit from regular aspirin intake were older and were at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and had overall higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Another group of individuals who typically benefit from daily aspirin use are those who have already had a stroke or a heart event in the past. All these findings urged major healthcare organizations, such as the American Heart Association, to reconsider their criteria and regulation of aspirin, and today, it’s highly recommended to consult a doctor before you decide to use aspirin as a preventative medication.
Healthy individuals especially should be careful about taking aspirin without a doctor's approval, as it can significantly increase one’s risk of internal bleeding and may have other harmful effects as well.