Three new studies found that taking low-dose aspirin daily did not result in health benefits, but rather some serious health risks.

By Stacey Leasca
Updated September 17, 2018
Epoxydude/Getty Images

A daily low-dose aspirin regimen may be doing you more harm than good, it turns out.

According to a trio of new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the benefits and risks of older adults taking baby aspirin daily.

The primary study looked to answer whether or not 100 milligrams of aspirin a day really could help prevent everything from heart attacks to cancer. According to CNN, the study involved a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. It followed nearly 20,000 participants with a median age of 74. Half of the participants took a 100-milligram tablet of aspirin a day while the other half took a placebo. The researchers then followed the study’s participants for a median of 4.7 years.

According to The New York Times, the researchers found that the daily pill did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, or disability as promised. Instead, it actually increased participants' risk of “significant bleeding in the digestive tract, brain, or other sites that required transfusions or admission to the hospital,” the Times reported.

In the second study, researchers were able to confirm these results, noting "the risk of major hemorrhage was significantly higher with aspirin than with a placebo. Major hemorrhage events primarily involved upper gastrointestinal and intracranial bleeding."

And if that weren’t enough, the third study also found that aspirin may have "higher all-cause mortality ... among apparently healthy older adults who received daily aspirin than among those who received [a] placebo and was attributed primarily to cancer-related death."

However, the authors of the studies added that their findings, "In the context of previous studies, this result was unexpected and should be interpreted with caution." This means more studies will have to be conducted before scientists draw any definitive conclusions.

In the meantime, experts are warning against healthy people simply popping an aspirin every day and believing it will fix everything that ails them.

“If you don’t need it, don’t start it,” Dr. John McNeil, lead author of the study and member of the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told The New York Times.

While healthy individuals may not need to take up a daily dose, there is a plethora of evidence showing an aspirin regimen can help people who have had a heart attack or stroke from having another one. As with any medication, it’s best to consult with your doctor before starting or ending any medications you may be on.

“For healthy older people, there’s still a good reason to talk to their doctors about what these findings mean for them individually,” Dr. Evan Hadley, director of the division of geriatrics and gerontology at the National Institute on Aging, additionally told The New York Times. “This is the average for a large group. A doctor can help sort out how it applies individually. It’s especially important for people already taking aspirin who are over 70. The study didn’t include many people who had been taking it and doesn’t address the question of continuing versus stopping.”