Those taking a daily low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke will want to read 2019 guidelines on taking the over-the-counter medication. The reason: a new summary of recent studies shows an increased risk for brain bleeding for certain people.
“Use of low-dose aspirin was associated with an overall increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage among people without symptomatic cardiovascular disease,” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Neurology said in its May 13 report. People of Asian descent and people with a low body mass index (BMI) are at even higher risk.
If a person has no history of heart disease or stroke, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association no longer recommend taking a daily aspirin without a doctor’s recommendation. The 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease states, “Aspirin should be used infrequently in the routine primary prevention of ASCVD [atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease] because of lack of net benefit.”
The JAMA report notes, however, that if someone has already had a heart attack or stroke, or had bypass surgery or a stent put in, the benefits of taking aspirin may regularly outweigh the disadvantages.
The report looked at 13 different randomized clinical trials, which altogether included 134,000 people. While the risk was still rare, those that took a daily low-dose aspirin had a 37% higher bleeding risk. Low-dose aspirin usually provides between 75 to 100 milligrams of the medication a day.
The American Heart Association guidelines advise that a healthier diet, losing weight, staying active and not smoking are all the most effective ways to lower your risk of heart disease.
Aspirin acts as a blood thinner that reduces blood’s clotting ability. This is helpful for those that have clogged arteries and are at risk of a blood clot forming and causing a heart attack or stroke. However, it can also lead to unintended bleeding — like brain hemorrhages.
If you’re between the ages of 40-79, you can estimate your cardiovascular disease risk with this calculator. The best advice remains to consult with your doctor about any questions you have about medications or treatments before adding or making changes.