Morning Rounds: Risks of taking aspirin

NORFOLK, Va. - It has been a common belief that taking aspirin every day can prevent heart attacks and strokes.  However, new research reveals that isn't necessarily the case for everyone.

"Original research showed that a baby aspirin daily helps prevent a second stroke or heart attack," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light.  "This finding was carried over and used in preventing the first stroke or heart attack, but current thought indicates a baby aspirin daily has very limited benefits in preventing a first stroke or heart attack."

"A baby aspirin daily increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding which is sometimes life threatening," he said.  "It also increases the risk of hemorrhage stroke which often carries a worse prognosis."

Dr. Light said a baby aspirin has no direct impact on the heart or brain.

"It works by making the platelets in the body not clump together as easily.  This decreased platelet function helps prevent clots from forming in the heart or brain," he explained.

Dr. Light said there is a select group of people who should consider taking a daily baby aspirin:

  • Anyone who has had a stroke or heart attack.
  • Patients age 50-59 are most likely to benefit if the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD) risk score greater than 10% (the benefits outweigh the harms).
  • Patients age 60-69 are likely to benefit from aspirin therapy if ASCVD risk score is 10% or higher.

Dr. Light urges patients to check their risk by putting their information into American College of Cardiology's risk calculator.