Study: Depending on your heart attack risk, aspirin can do more harm than good

Study: Depending on your heart attack risk, aspirin can do more harm than good
Study: Depending on your heart attack risk, aspirin can do more harm than good

New information shows 11.6 percent of patients prescribed aspirin therapy to prevent heart attacks or strokes shouldn’t actually be taking the medicine. According to the study, appearing in the January Journal of the American College of Cardiology (published on Monday), for this percentage of patients, the aspirin can actually do more harm than good.

For patients who have a 10 percent risk or higher of developing a cardiac disease within 10 years, taking aspirin can help keep a cardiovascular event at bay. But when studying the records of 68,808 patients who took aspirin between 2008 and 2011, researchers found that 11.6 percent had been sticking to a daily aspirin regimen though their risks were less than 6 percent.

Though aspirin’s blood-thinning ability is certainly helpful, especially when it comes to preventing the formation of blood clots that lead to heart attacks, that very quality can be dangerous for people with a low risk of blood clots. When blood is thin and can’t clot easily, excessive bleeding is always a risk. Excessive bleeding, be it in the brain or truly any part of the body, can lead to a life-threatening condition.

The study also determined that more women are taking aspirin unnecessarily than men: 17 percent compared to 5 percent. Another recent study might change women’s over-preparedness when it comes to aspirin though. The study showed that after a decade and a half of 28,000 health women taking an aspirin every other day, “a sizable number” of women demonstrated signs of long-term gastrointestinal bleeding. To top that off, the researchers found that the aspirin taken at regular intervals only slightly reduced the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The overall message here is to actually determine if you have a cardiovascular risk higher than 10 percent (though some researchers believe the threshold should be lowered to six percent). Absolutely consult a doctor before beginning a medication regime, and until then, get a better idea of your risk through an online risk calculator, hosted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


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