JAN 23, 2019 2:49 PM PST

Frequent Aspirin Use Can Lead to Increased Bleeding

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

According to a systemic study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), taking aspirin regularly may prevent heart attacks and strokes but can lead to almost 50% risk increase of developing major bleeding episodes. "Aspirin use requires discussion between the patient and their physician, with the knowledge that any small potential cardiovascular benefits are weighed up against the real risk of severe bleeding,” says lead author of the study Dr. Sean Zheng who is also and Academic Clinical Fellow in Cardiology at King's College London.

Credit: King's College London

The study found that indeed aspirin will decrease risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications, but will increase risk of major bleeding. The research pulled data from outcomes of trials enrolling more than 1,000 participants without known indications of cardiovascular diseases. Study participants either took aspirin, placebo, or no treatment at all. Results of the study showed that the frequent use of aspirin brought an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular events with roughly 250 patients needed to be treated with aspirin for 5 years for the prevention of a single heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death.

On the flip side, frequent aspirin use brought 43% of major bleeding events in comparison to those who did not take it with about one in 200 people treated with aspirin would have a major bleeding incident. However, no effects could be interpreted with frequent aspirin use and cancer.

Learn more about how aspirin works:

“This study demonstrates that there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine aspirin use in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths in people without cardiovascular disease,” said Zheng. "There has been more uncertainty surrounding what should be done in patients who are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and in patients with diabetes. This study shows that while cardiovascular events may be reduced in these patients, these benefits are matched by an increased risk of major bleeding events.

Source: King’s College London

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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