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Without heart disease, daily aspirin may be too risky

For people without heart disease, taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes may increase the risk of severe brain bleeding to the point where it outweighs any potential benefit, a research review suggests.

U.S. doctors have long advised adults who haven’t had a heart attack or stroke but are at high risk for these events to take a daily aspirin pill, an approach known as primary prevention. Even though there’s clear evidence aspirin works for this purpose, many physicians and patients have been reluctant to follow the recommendations because of the risk of rare but potentially lethal internal bleeding.

For the current study, researchers examined data from 13 clinical trials testing the effects of aspirin against a placebo or no treatment in more than 134,000 adults.

The risk of intracranial hemorrhage, or brain bleeds, was rare: taking aspirin was associated with two additional cases of this type of internal bleeding for every 1,000 people, the study found.

But the bleeding risk was still 37 percent higher for people taking aspirin than for people who didn’t take this drug….[  ]

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