Lots of people take a small dose of aspirin on a daily basis to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. But taking daily aspirin has its dangers…
Daily aspirin use was associated with a higher-than-expected increase in the risk for major bleeding in an Italian study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The risk for serious bleeds was five times higher than has been reported in clinical trials of daily low-dose aspirin, says researcher Antonio Nicolucci, MD.
He noted that while daily aspirin therapy has been proven to lower the risk for a second heart attack or stroke in people who have already suffered one, the treatment’s usefulness for preventing a first heart attack or stroke is not so clear.
“People with a moderate-to-high risk for having a major cardiovascular event probably benefit from aspirin therapy, but the risks may outweigh the benefits for people with a lower risk,” Nicolucci tells WebMD.
In this study, Nicolucci and his colleagues, also examined how taking daily aspirin affected the risk of bleeding in people with and without diabetes.
The researchers were surprised to find that patients with diabetes had a 36% increased risk for these potentially life-threatening bleeding episodes even when they did not take aspirin. Aspirin use did not appear to influence this risk for people with diabetes one way or another.
Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, and low-dose aspirin is recommended for most diabetic men over age 50 and diabetic women over 60 when other heart disease and stroke risk factors are present.
American Heart Association past president Robert Eckel, MD, says more study is needed to understand the impact of diabetes on bleeding risk.
Taking statins was associated with a lower risk for both gastrointestinal and brain bleeding.
Nicolucci says the study’s findings highlight the importance of considering an individual patient’s cardiovascular and bleeding risk when aspirin therapy is being considered.
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