Take a peek in the average medicine cabinet, and you’re likely to find a bottle of aspirin. Commonly used for temporary relief of minor aches and pains, as well as to treat strokes, heart attacks, and other coronary conditions, people across the globe rely on the drug—but according to the latest warnings from researchers at the University of Michigan, there’s now a big reason some folks might want to steer clear of this pill. Read on to find out why popping an aspirin could put your health at risk if you routinely take another common medication, and what alternatives are safe to try instead.
READ THIS NEXT: Never Take These Common Medications With Your Morning Coffee, Pharmacists Say.
While it was once termed a “wonder drug”, doctors today are no longer recommending aspirin at the rate they did in decades past. After many years of advising that adults over the age of 50 take a daily low-dose aspirin to prevent first-time strokes and heart attacks, the medical community recently changed its tune.
It’s now recommended that people over the age of 60 do not take the drug daily as a preventative measure—at least not without a recommendation from their healthcare provider. But why has aspirin, previously touted by some as a “miracle drug,” seen such an about-face in the medical community?
READ THIS NEXT: I’m a Pharmacist, and These Are the OTC Medications I Won’t Take.
In April 2022, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued a statement on aspirin use as preventative medicine. The group found that while using aspirin may have a “small net benefit” in adults 40-59 years old hoping to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD), it also found “with moderate certainty” that starting an aspirin regime to prevent CVD “has no benefit” for adults 60 years and older.
According to Eugene Yang, MD, MS, and chair of the American College of Cardiology Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Council, “More and more studies are showing that aspirin for primary preventions show no benefit, but I think there’s a lag where the physicians and clinical providers are not recognizing that taking this aspirin for primary prevention has no benefit.”
Part of how aspirin works is as a blood thinner, preventing blood clots which can clog vessels and lead to serious medical problems, including death. But by that same token, doctors and scientists are discovering now that when patients are already prescribed another blood thinner by their provider, taking aspirin alongside it can lead to internal bleeding.
Geoffrey Barnes, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center, explains that a study he recently co-authored proposed: “Let’s see if we can identify the patients who we don’t need to be on aspirin because they’re already on another blood thinner. Let’s stop their aspirin and let’s see if we can actually avoid those bleeding events.”
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The study included over 6,700 adults who were taking a blood thinner called warfarin to treat blood clots or irregular heart rhythms. After consulting to see which of those patients could safely discontinue their daily aspirin dosage, the researchers discovered that over time, those who reduced their aspirin use had better health outcomes, including fewer bleeding problems.
The study tracked patients across nine years, and in a statistical analysis performed across 2020-2021, investigators found “significantly fewer bleeding problems, minor or major” after some patients ceased aspirin use, and thankfully “did not see an increase in clotting issues” either.
Some guidance hasn’t changed: It’s always good to check in with your doctor before making any kind of major medical decision like starting or stopping a medication. Aspirin can still be crucial in the health regimes of certain patients, not only for major heart conditions, but also for some who can’t take Advil or Tylenol as pain relievers. But if you’re one of the two to three million Americans who take a blood thinner, the latest science says to think twice about popping that next aspirin. If that drug isn’t the best option for your body, a conversation with your healthcare provider can help shed light on which pain relievers are right for you.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.