New report says low-dose aspirin linked to bleeding in the skull

An artificial model of a human skull and brain

An artificial model of a human skull and brain

Aspirin should be limited to people at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease and a very low risk of bleeding'.

Three recent large studies concluded that taking a daily low-dose aspirin is, at best, a waste of money for healthy older adults.

People without a history of heart disease and stroke who took low-dose aspirin were more likely to experience bleeding inside the skull, according to a new study.

The trials enrolled over 134,000 patients.

The researchers found that low-dose aspirin was associated with increased risk of any intracranial bleeding, but the greatest potential relative risk was for subdural or extradural hemorrhage, otherwise known as bleeding which occurs between the topmost and middle layers of membranes surrounding the brain.

The review found that people who took a placebo in the trials had a 0.46 percent risk of having a head bleed.

According to the American Heart Association, the guidelines announced in March that the adults more than 70 years of age and who do not have the risk of cardiovascular diseases is no longer recommend to take aspirin, as, it does not act as a preventive measure. At worst, it may raise their risk of internal bleeding and early death. People of Asian descent and people with a low body mass index (BMI) are at even higher risk.

The baseline patient characteristics most closely associated with intracerebral hemorrhage with low-dose aspirin use were low body mass index, and Asian race/ethnicity.

"The absolute magnitude of these adverse effects is modest, but clinically relevant", the report's authors wrote.

An artificial model of a human skull and brain.

When fatty deposits called atherosclerotic plaques form in arteries, pieces of plaque can break off and trigger clotting, preventing adequate blood flow to the brain or heart. "Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets-possibly preventing a heart attack", it continued. Regular strength aspirin typically contains 325 milligrams.

"Aspirin continues to be the cornerstone treatment for the prevention of secondary cardiovascular events - and in fact, for those who have already experienced a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, discontinuing an aspirin regimen without a doctor's guidance could increase the risk of another heart attack by 63 percent and an ischemic stroke by 40 percent".

Because head bleeds are often catastrophic and the benefits of low-dose aspirin are not well-established, doctors should use caution when prescribing this medication to people without symptomatic cardiovascular disease, the study's authors said. "The benefits of oral anticoagulants such as warfarin or novel oral anticoagulants [such as rivaroxaban, dabigatran, and apixaban] in preventing stroke are much higher than bleeding risk in atrial fibrillation patients".

The American Heart Association guidelines advise that a healthier diet, losing weight, staying active and not smoking are all the most effective ways to lower your risk of heart disease.

"I think now the aspirin a day might actually hurt you and it's more important to talk to your health care provider to make sure you're taking the medications for the right reasons and avoiding any injurious affects from taking something that you don't really need to be doing".

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