Aspirin is known for its renowned effects at relieving pain, but its advantages extend beyond pain relief. It’s been known for a while now that daily aspirin use can help prevent heart problems. In fact, experts recommend the daily use of low-dose aspirin to help prevent cardiovascular disease, a condition that can lead to heart attack or stroke. However, the risk associated with taking this pill every day is less clear. While the daily use of aspirin can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it can also increase the chance of gastrointestinal or other bleeding. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital believe their new app, “Aspirin Guide,” can help doctors and patients make informed decisions about aspirin use.

"We developed the Aspirin-Guide app because we realized that weighing the risks and benefits of aspirin for individuals who have not had a heart attack or stroke is a complex process. The new mobile app enables individualized benefit to risk assessment in a matter of seconds while the patient is with the physician," cardiologist Dr. Samia Mora said in a statement.

For doctors, deciding whether a patient is eligible to use aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease is a complicated process that involves assessing whether the benefits of taking low-dose — 75 to 80 mg daily — aspirin outweigh the risks for each individual.

“Despite numerous general guidelines on the use of aspirin for primary prevention, there is limited formal guidance in making these parallel assessments of benefit and risk or in using this information to identify appropriate patients for treatment,” researchers wrote. As a result, inappropriate use of aspirin is common in clinical practice. Researchers came up with the ‘Aspirin-Guide’ app because they realized a need for improving evidence-based decision making about aspirin use and tools to facilitate this benefit/risk assessment.

The app helps doctors personalize low-dose aspirin treatment by calculating and comparing a patient's risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a 10-year period to the likelihood they would develop gastrointestinal or other bleeding, a side effect of taking aspirin, over the same timeframe. The app calculates a patient’s risk by allowing doctors to enter individual risk factors on the screen.

"Aspirin-Guide is a user-friendly clinical decision support tool, that will facilitate informed and personalized decision-making about the use of aspirin in primary prevention of [cardiovascular disease]. Patients should discuss the pros and cons of aspirin treatment with their healthcare provider," co-author JoAnn Manson said in a statement.

Over the years, daily aspirin use has been associated with many benefits, including a reduced risk of developing preeclampsia, and gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer. However, past research has also linked its daily use to adverse health outcomes like an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, and it has been deemed risky for healthy people over 50 due to the high risk of bleeding in the brain and stomach.

The free Aspirin-Guide mobile app for iPhones and iPads became available at the Apple app store on June 20, 2016.

Source: Mora S, Ames J, Manson J. Low-Dose Aspirin in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Shared Decision Making in Clinical Practice. JAMA. 2016.