Is Taking Aspirin Daily Healthy Or Harmful To The Body?

Aspirin may be an affordable way of preventing heart attacks or stroke, but research suggests that there are risks in taking the round white pill, especially if it is not recommended by health care specialists or if there is no prior history of cardiovascular diseases.

"Baby" Aspirin No Longer A Primary Prevention 

In 2014, the FDA reversed its stance on daily low-dose aspirin as a primary source of heart disease prevention, citing clearly established side effects such as brain and stomach bleeding, as well as a lack of clear benefit for patients who have never experienced a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular disease. 

In 2019, the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology updated their clinical guidelines on the primary cardiovascular disease prevention based on many of the controversial findings on the use of prophylactic aspirin. 

However, it should be noted that the AHA's recommendation applies only to primary heart disease prevention in those with no history of heart problems, or at least those with low to moderate heart disease risk. 

Aspirin And Heart Diseases 

Although daily low-dose aspirin continues to be recommended for patients who already have heart disease, evidence suggests that it is not ideal for them either. 

A 2004 study assessed the risks and benefits of aspirin and the blood thinner warfarin in heart failure patients, and found that daily aspirin intake (300 mg) resulted in the worst cardiac outcomes, which include worsening heart failure. The study authors then added that there was "no evidence that aspirin is effective or safe in patients with heart failure." A similar study, published in 2010, found that older heart disease patients with a prior history of aspirin use had more comorbidities and a higher heart attack risk compared to those who had not been on aspirin therapy. 

The risks of taking aspirin extends to diabetics, who are at increased risk of heart disease and are more likely to be put on an aspirin regimen. One meta-analysis of six studies found no clear evidence that aspirin effectively prevents cardiovascular events in diabetics, although men may have some benefits. A study published in 2009, which examined the effects of aspirin therapy on diabetic patients, found that it "significantly increased mortality in diabetic patients without cardiovascular disease from 17 percent at age 50 years to 29 percent at age 85 years." 

Aspirin And Lower Mortality Risk 

Interestingly enough, a 2019 study found that prophylactic aspirin may lower the risk of all-cause cancer, gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and colorectal cancer among older adults. 

The study involved over 140,000 participants with a mean age of 66.3 years who participated in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. It found that aspirin intake of at least three times a week resulted in: 

  • 19 percent lower death risk from all-cause
  • 15 percent lower death risk from any cancer type 
  • 25 percent lower death risk from GI cancer
  • 29 percent lower death risk from colorectal cancer 

A higher body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 lowered these risks by one percent, with the exception of colorectal cancer, the risk of which was decreased by 34 percent. 

Among underweight people, with a BMI of 20 or less, no noticeable benefit of aspirin use was found, leading the researchers to hypothesize that "the efficacy of aspirin as a cancer preventive agent may be associated with BMI," although future studies are needed to confirm this theory. The authors also warned that prophylactic aspirin therapy as key to preventing cancer would need to be weighed against the increased risk of bleeding.  

Other Health Risks Associated With Aspirin Use

Overall, there is a lot of evidence that make the case against long-term aspirin use. One major concern is the risk of internal bleeding, 
magnified when taking antidepressants or blood-thinning medications. 

In addition, routine aspirin use has been linked to GI tract damage, increased cataract risk and, for males, hearing loss.

Aspirin Image stock.xchng

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