Healthy people taking a daily dose of aspirin to prevent heart attacks may be doing themselves more harm than good, according to a new British study.
The risks of bleeding from taking aspirin were such that its routine use in healthy people "cannot be supported," the British researchers noted, although they did not dispute its use in patients with a history of vascular problems.
The results of the Aspirin for Asymptomatic Atherosclerosis study add to a long-running debate about whether the potential dangers of taking aspirin could outweigh the benefits from reducing the risk of clots.
"We know that patients with symptoms of artery disease, such as angina, heart attack, or stroke, can reduce their risk of further problems by taking a small dose of aspirin each day," said professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation which helped fund the research.
"The findings of this study agree with our current advice that people who do not have symptomatic or diagnosed artery or heart disease should not take aspirin, because the risks of bleeding may outweigh the benefits."
The study involved 3,350 men and women ages 50 to 75 years who tests revealed may have a condition in which the arteries in their legs had blockages but who had no symptoms of heart disease or history of heart attack.
They were given either a daily 100 mg dose of aspirin or a placebo and monitored over eight years.
Although there was no difference in the number of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events, major bleeding occurred in 2 percent of the aspirin group, compared with just 1.2 percent of the placebo group.