Research Casts Doubt on Value of Daily Aspirin for Healthy Adults

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July 27, 2023 -- Daily use of low-dose aspirin offers no significant protection against stroke and was linked to a higher rate of bleeding in the brain, according to new research published in JAMA.

The research matches other evidence advising that healthy older adults without a history of heart conditions or warning signs of stroke should not take low-dose aspirin. 

The findings also support the recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that low-dose aspirin should not be prescribed for preventing a first heart attack or stroke in healthy older adults, The New York Times reported.

“We can be very emphatic that healthy people who are not on aspirin and do not have multiple risk factors should not be starting it now,” said Randall Stafford, MD, of Stanford University, who was not involved in the study, in The Times.

It’s not as clear for others, he said.

“The longer you’ve been on aspirin and the more risk factors you have for heart attacks and strokes, the murkier it gets,” he said.

Some cardiac and stroke experts say daily aspirin should remain part of the regimen for people who have had a heart attack or stroke.

The JAMA report was based on data from a randomized control trial of 19,000 people from Australia and America. Participants were over the age of 70 and did not have heart disease. 

The data covered an average of almost 4.7 years and revealed that aspirin lowered the rate of ischemic stroke but not significantly. An ischemic stroke happens when a clot forms in a blood vessel that sends blood to the brain. 

There was also a 38% higher rate of brain bleeds for people who took aspirin daily compared to those who took a placebo.

The Times wrote, “In the past, some doctors regarded aspirin as something of a wonder drug, capable of protecting healthy patients against a future heart attack or stroke. But recent studies have shown that the powerful drug has limited protective power among people who have not yet had such an event, and it comes with dangerous side effects.”