An aspirin a day keeps heart attacks at bay?

It is part of the daily routine for many, but is it actually doing you good? Aspirin prevents platelets (a type of blood cell) from forming into clots and it is so effective that a single tablet can increase the tendency to bleed easily for up to a week. That’s fine if all you want to do is thin the blood, but too much blood thinning can be quite dangerous as researchers from McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada found when they examined 4,000 cases of patients suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding. They found that when the anticoagulant drugs warfarin and clopidogrel were taken with aspirin, gastrointestinal bleeding was four to six times higher than in subjects who didn’t combine these drugs. When these prescription blood thinners are prescribed, aspirin use is usually discouraged, but that doesn’t mean that each patient gets the message. Those who don’t may be experiencing much more harm than good.

In a previous study in 2004, UK researchers at the University of Hull produced a Warfarin/Aspirin Study in Heart Failure that divided patients into three groups: one group received 300 mg of aspirin daily, one received a standard daily dose of warfarin, and a third group received a placebo. All the subjects in the study had experienced either heart attack or stroke, prompted by thrombosis. After an average follow up period of more than two years, researchers found that neither the aspirin nor the warfarin therapies provided any greater protection against death, nonfatal stroke, or nonfatal heart attacks than the placebo. In fact, subjects who received aspirin therapy were nearly twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke compared to those who took warfarin or placebo. Gastrointestinal problems were also elevated in the aspirin group, confirming the findings of McGill University.

So if you’re taking a daily aspirin, should you stop? NO. Not before talking to your doctor first. In a 2003 study that reviewed more than 1,200 cases of coronary episodes, researchers found more than 50 cases of heart attacks or other severe coronary problems less than one week after patients discontinued aspirin use.