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A new study out of the University of Alberta suggests many people are taking daily aspirin when they don’t need to be. The study also suggests the risks of healthy people taking aspirin may outweigh the benefits.

For decades, Canadians have been told to take aspirin on a daily basis to prevent heart attack or stroke, but new findings from researchers at the University of Alberta suggests many shouldn’t be taking the drug if they have never had a heart attack or stroke.

Michael Kolber, a family medicine professor at the U of A, and recent medicine graduate at the University of Calgary Paul Fritsch reviewed three large studies in 2018 to come up with the new findings. They determined that the risk of major internal bleeding associated with taking aspirin on a daily basis is higher than the benefits.

“These aren’t nosebleeds or bleeding gums,” Fritsch said in a written release. “These are major internal bleeds where the patients need hospitalization and perhaps a blood transfusion, so they’re of major clinical, and also personal, significance.”

One of the studies noted that 40 per cent of Albertans over the age of 50 take aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease, even if they have never had an issue with their heart.

Kolber says the suggestion to take aspirin daily, which has been given by doctors since the 1900s, is based on flawed research.

He notes that taking aspirin is still beneficial for someone who has experienced heart disease.

Anyone who hasn’t experienced heart disease can use other preventative measures like exercise, quitting smoking, and tracking their blood pressure.

Those with elevated risk for future cardiovascular disease can consider taking a statin, which lowers cholesterol, Kolber said.

“The evidence for those measures is far superior to the evidence for aspirin,” he said.

Kolber and Fritsch’s findings have been published electronically through Tools for Practice, which includes evidence summaries from U of A’s evidence-based research team.