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UGA Study Shows Potential Risks of Daily Dose of Aspirin

The benefits of aspirin may no longer outweigh the risks for many adults without heart disease. That’s according to recent findings by researchers at the University of Georgia.

“When I was on the US Preventable Services Task Force, we made a recommendation that all adults who are at higher than average risk than normal for heart disease should consider taking baby aspirin,” according to Dr. Mark Ebell UGA reseacher. "There’ve been four publications that appeared since then and they seem to have different findings."

Ebell is author of the study which was published in Family Practice. He says those risks can be dangerous.

“If you think about it in terms of 1,000 people starting to take low dose aspirin and taking it for five years, what you’re going to do, on average, is prevent four heart attacks or strokes, but you’re going to cause seven major bleeding events and three of those are bleeding into the brain, which is potentially catastrophic.”

Researchers say many people should still take low dose aspirin, in particular adults aged 50 to 69 who have an increased cardiovascular risk.

“There a lot of people who still should take aspirin. We’re only talking about people who have not had a heart attack or a stroke and do have any other reason for taking aspirin. There are a lot of patients out there who have had a heart attack or a stroke or for other reasons have a clotting disorder where they should continue to take low-dose aspirin and the benefits for them far outweigh the potential harms.”

Ebell says cardiovascular risks have been lowered in the U.S. since more people take cholesterol-lowering medication, are controlling high blood pressure and have stopped smoking. 

The current recommendation for taking aspirin as the primary form of heart attack or stroke prevention is limited to adults aged 50 to 69 who have an increased cardiovascular risk.

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