As effective as taking a daily low-dose aspirin can be for some heart issues, it’s definitely not for every heart condition. And, according to a new almost-five-year study published in Neurology, low-dose daily aspirin does nothing to prevent dementia or slow cognitive decline either. 

For most people, studies reaffirm that the increased risk for internal bleeding outweighs the benefits of low-dose daily aspirin. Yet many who shouldn’t take it still do. 

Daily aspirin is recommended only for preventing a second heart attack or second stroke, and it is therefore prescribed only following a heart attack, stroke or diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease, which increases heart attack and stroke risk.  

While a family history of heart disease or high calcium scores on a coronary CT scan also appear to increase cardiovascular risk and may prompt more aggressive prevention measures, statins, blood pressure control, smoking cessation and lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise are the best strategies to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Aspirin may be useful in select individuals but generally is not part of a primary prevention strategy.

A review of observational studies published in Annals of Oncology found continued evidence that regular aspirin use plays a role in reducing risk for colon and other digestive tract cancers, and prior studies have found that it helps prevent recurrence of some cancers, especially breast cancer. These associations are intriguing, but the ­effect of aspirin on cancer prevention has not been evaluated in a rigorous, randomized controlled trial—medical research’s gold standard. Until then, aspirin shouldn’t be taken solely to reduce cancer risk.

If you are currently taking aspirin daily, ask your doctor about removing it from your regimen. If he/she recommends that you continue, be sure to be monitored for signs of bleeding.

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