Aspirin: the research behind the headlines

aspirin

Q: Should I take aspirin every day? It seems to have a lot of benefits but I gather there are risks.

A: Research suggests that a daily low dose (75mg, or a quarter of the usual dose) of aspirin may help prevent or mitigate heart disease, clot-related strokes and, most recently, cancer. But this data is not conclusive overall – in fact, some studies do not show benefits – and there are potentially serious side effects, such as internal bleeding, gastric ulcers and an increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

Do not take – or discontinue taking – aspirin without specific advice from your doctor. Because the benefits and risks vary so much in individuals, it is vital that your doctor assesses the balance in your situation.

Aspirin may prevent heart attacks in people who have already had one, and be appropriate for patients with a history of heart disease and after bypass surgery. This is because it reduces the risk of clots forming in blood vessels. But the British Heart Foundation (bhf.org.uk) advises that while ‘this group should continue to take aspirin as prescribed, people who don’t have heart disease shouldn’t take aspirin because the risks may outweigh the benefits’. Read More…