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Aspirin: Do the Risks Outweigh the Benefits?

There has been a long-running debate about the benefit of daily aspirin for heart attack prevention versus the risk associated with major bleeding.

The findings of a new placebo-controlled randomized trial called The Aspirin for Asymptomatic Atherosclerosis study, recently added fuel to the fire when researchers concluded that daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks may do more harm than good.

The study, conducted by the British Heart Foundation,was presented at the 2009 European Society of Cardiology Annual Congress held the week of August 29, 2009.

It included 28,980 men and women aged 50 to 75 years without cardiovascular disease.

All of the participants were given an ABI screening test. The ABI test is used to diagnose blocked arteries by comparing the blood pressure in your lower legs to the blood pressure in your arms.

The participants with a low ABI, and therefore a higher likelihood of artery blockage, were entered into an 8 year trial in which they took 100mg of aspirin or a placebo daily.

At the end of the study, there was no difference in the occurrence of heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events among the participants taking the aspirin or the placebo.

There was, however, a significant increase in major bleeding among the aspirin group compared to the placebo.

Based on these findings, the researchers suggest that people who have not been diagnosed with artery or heart disease not take daily doses of aspirin because the risks may outweigh benefits. They also recommend people consult with their doctor before deciding whether or not to take a daily aspirin.

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following five strategies for preventing heart disease:

1. Don't smoke or use tobacco products

2. Regularly participate in moderately vigorous physical activity

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in fat, cholesterol and salt

4. Maintain a healthy weight

5. Get regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings

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