New findings indicate that low-dose aspirin has cardiovascular benefits that differ for men and women, but it raises the risk of bleeding for both.
Although heart-attack survivors do benefit from low-dose aspirin, controversy remains as to whether anyone should take aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke.
In an analysis of six large clinical trials, aspirin decreased men’s risk of a heart attack by 32% but not their risk of stroke, and it reduced women’s risk of stroke by 17% but not their risk of a heart attack.
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Unfortunately, aspirin also increased the risk of major bleeding (from stomach or intestinal ulcers) by 70% for both men and women. Both men and women receive a small, but potentially life-saving, benefit from daily aspirin at the cost of a small but potentially life-threatening risk of “major bleeding events.”
People who take daily aspirin are estimated to have 0.1% to 0.2% fewer heart attacks per year than those not taking aspirin. For people with a low to intermediate risk of a heart attack, however, it might not be advisable to take an aspirin a day.