Millions of people take over-the-counter aspirin daily to reduce fever or relieve headaches. While there are some benefits to taking aspirin, there are also risks, especially if taken daily.
Some studies show that taking aspirin regularly can help protect against disease, but others show that it does more harm than good. Recent findings from StudyFinds.org reveal that aspirin increases the risk of heart failure, increases the likelihood of premature death from cancer in older adults, and may even trigger liver damage in some hospitalized patients.
The big question is: do the benefits outweigh the risks? Here are seven health risks associated with taking aspirin according to studies published in recent years.
A daily dose of aspirin can do more harm than good
A University of Georgia study warns that much of Americans’ beliefs about the preventative heart benefits of aspirin stem from outdated research conducted decades ago that would not be considered completely accurate today. In fact, the study authors claim that unless you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, taking aspirin daily may actually do more harm than good.
“We shouldn’t just assume that everyone will benefit from low-dose aspirin, and in fact, the data shows that the potential benefits are similar to the potential harms for most people who haven’t had an event. cardiovascular disease and taking it to try to prevent a first heart attack or stroke,” says study author and researcher Mark Ebell.
After reviewing decades of research on aspirin use and its effects, Ebell says that by today’s medical standards, aspirin’s harms may outweigh its benefits. “There are so many things we are doing better now that reduce the risk of cardiovascular and colorectal cancer, which leaves less work for aspirin to do,” he adds.
If someone is concerned about their heart health, but hasn’t suffered a heart attack or stroke, Ebell recommends consulting their doctor about the best course of action before taking an aspirin regiment. daily.
READ MORE: New study questions health benefits of aspirin: Daily dose may do more harm than good
Older people should not take aspirin to prevent heart disease
A study warns people over 60 that they should avoid taking aspirin as a preventative measure against heart disease. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says the risk of internal bleeding far outweighs the potential benefits for older adults.
Aspirin use for adults between the ages of 40 and 59 received a “C” grade from the USPSTF. This means that the team supports the use of a treatment for some patients and that scientists are fairly certain that patients will receive a small benefit – in this case, from taking aspirin to prevent disease. cardiac.
However, taking aspirin to prevent heart disease when you’re over 60 received a “D” grade from the team. This means the USPSTF believes “the harms outweigh the benefits” and discourage the practice. “Based on current evidence, the task force advises people aged 60 and over not to start taking aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke,” adds the group’s vice president. work Michael Barry, MD “Because the risk of internal bleeding increases with age, the potential harms of aspirin use outweigh the benefits in this age group.
READ MORE: Adults over 60 shouldn’t take aspirin to prevent heart disease, new study warns
May increase the risk of heart failure
Researchers from the European Society of Cardiology report that taking aspirin increases the risk of heart failure in people with at least one pre-existing health risk. These include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.
In a study of nearly 31,000 people at risk of developing heart failure, the team found that aspirin users saw their chances of being diagnosed with heart failure increase by 26%. The researchers defined “at risk” as anyone with a pre-existing health condition.
To confirm their findings, the study authors compared readings between aspirin users and nonusers. They also looked at the 74% of the study group who were free of cardiovascular disease (22,690 people) and found that using aspirin also increased their risk of heart failure by 27%.
“This is the first study to report that among people with at least one risk factor for heart failure, those who took aspirin were more likely to later develop the disease than those who did not use the aspirin. drug,” says study author Dr Blerim Mujaj of the University. from Freiburg.
READ MORE: Aspirin increases risk of heart failure by more than 25%
May trigger liver damage in hospitalized patients
Common painkillers, including aspirin, can cause liver damage in hospitalized patients.
Research warns that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which also include ibuprofen, and naproxen pose a risk to liver health. Doctors and patients should be aware of their dangers, warn Chinese scientists. Patients with high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, pre-existing liver disease, history of previous surgeries are most vulnerable. The results come from an analysis of the hospital records of 156,570 people.
“Our results showed that the incidence among hospitalized patients was 13 times higher than that of the general population in mainland China,” says corresponding author Dr. DaiHong Guo of the Liberation Army General Hospital. of the Chinese people in Beijing in a statement. “The incidence of liver injury for many drugs has been seriously underestimated.”
READ MORE: Common painkillers like ibuprofen can cause liver damage in hospitalized patients
Aspirin increases the likelihood of premature death from cancer in the elderly
A study suggests that taking aspirin daily may promote cancer progression and lead to early death in the elderly. The study was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to examine low-dose aspirin in healthy older adults.
Researchers say aspirin is associated with a 19% higher risk of being diagnosed with spreading cancers. There is also a 22% higher risk of doctors finding advanced cancer. Among those who develop advanced cancers, those who take aspirin are also more likely to die.
“Deaths were particularly high among people on aspirin who were diagnosed with advanced solid cancers, suggesting a possible adverse effect of aspirin on the growth of cancers once they have already developed in older people. “, says lead writer Andrew Chan. “While these results suggest that we should be cautious before starting aspirin treatment in otherwise healthy older people, it does not mean that people who are already taking aspirin – particularly if they have started taking it at a younger age – should stop their aspirin regimen.”
READ MORE: Aspirin increases the likelihood of premature death from cancer in older adults
Does not reduce the risk of dementia in older people
Research published in the journal Neurology found that small doses of aspirin had no beneficial impact on the brain. Scientists had hoped that a daily aspirin would reduce the risk of developing dementia by reducing brain inflammation and minimizing blood clots.
The study followed 19,114 people for nearly five years. Most of the participants were at least 70 years old and had no history of heart disease or dementia. To track their mental health, seniors underwent thinking and memory tests throughout the project. Although some patients received low-dose aspirin and others a placebo, the researchers say there was no difference between the two groups and they began to suffer from mental disorders.
“Unfortunately, our large study found that a daily low dose of aspirin provided no benefit to study participants, either in preventing dementia or slowing cognitive decline,” says the author. study Joanne Ryan from the School of Public Health at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
READ MORE: Taking aspirin does not reduce dementia risk in older adults, study finds
Will not prolong healthy aging in older adults
Taking an aspirin every day may be suggested by doctors for patients at risk of heart attack, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason for healthy older people to take the drug. A study by researchers at Rush University in Chicago found that low daily doses of aspirin had no effect on healthy aging in people over the age of 70.
That is, taking 100 milligrams of the drug daily played no role in preventing dementia or physical disabilities in otherwise healthy people.
The massive international trial, which began in 2010, focused on the potential risks and benefits of low-dose aspirin for older people who had no previous cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, mental and physical disabilities or medical conditions requiring the use of aspirin. In addition to finding that aspirin did not prolong what they call “healthy independent living”, they also found that the risk of dying from a wide range of causes, such as cancer and heart disease, varied significantly in the trial and will require further analysis in follow-up studies.
READ MORE: Study: Taking daily aspirin does not prolong healthy aging in older adults
Even though these studies show some harmful effects of taking aspirin, be sure to speak to a healthcare professional about whether or not you should take the over-the-counter medication. If you are prescribed medication, never stop taking your usual doses without first talking to your doctor.