New Study Finds Low-Dose Aspirin Associated with Bleeding in the Skull — What to Know

Low-dose aspirin is linked to an increased risk of bleeding in the skull among people who do not have heart disease, according to a new study.

The study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Neurology, looked at 13 randomized clinical trials of more than 134,000 patients using low-dose aspirin for primary prevention.

It concluded that for people without symptomatic cardiovascular disease, taking low-dose aspirin was associated with an overall increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage (or bleeding within the skull), with an even higher risk for people of Asian race/ethnicity and people with a low body mass index.

The study noted that intracranial hemorrhage is associated with high mortality rates and functional dependency.

Bayer, which bills itself as the number one aspirin brand, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, though its website warns its product is “not appropriate for everyone,” and encourages patients to speak with doctors before taking aspirin.

The new findings come two months after the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association issued new guidelines opposing long-standing recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that people take baby aspirin daily to reduce their risk of heart disease.

The guidelines said doing so was no longer necessary for adults with a low risk of heart disease because people were more likely to develop gastrointestinal bleeding from the aspirin than receive any preventative benefits. Researchers also advised aspirin only be administered to “select high-risk patients.”

“Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Roger Blumenthal, co-chair of the 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, said in a statement. “It’s much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin.”

The new recommendations came after a September study of over 19,000 U.S. adults ages 65 and up found that daily aspirin was unnecessary and potentially harmful.

“We found there was no discernible benefit of aspirin on prolonging independent, healthy life for the elderly,” Anne Murray, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis and a lead author of the study, told NPR in September.

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