May 13 (UPI) -- People without a history of heart disease and stroke who took low-dose aspirin were more likely to experience bleeding inside the skull, according to a new study.
Historically, the use of low-dose aspirin has been recommended for older adults as a way to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. The over-the-counter pain medication can prevent blood clots from forming.
When fatty deposits called atherosclerotic plaques form in arteries, pieces of plaque can break off and trigger clotting, preventing adequate blood flow to the brain or heart.
The use of low-dose aspirin has garnered criticism in recent years. Several recent studies have shown the drug increases the risk of heavy bleeding.
The latest research, published this week in the journal JAMA Neurology, suggests regular low-dose aspirin use increases the risk of an intracranial hemorrhage.
"Use of low-dose aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events remains controversial because increased risk of bleeding may offset the overall benefit," study authors wrote. "Among major bleeding events, intracranial hemorrhage is associated with high mortality rates and functional dependency."
Earlier this year, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association updated their guidelines for aspirin use, recommending the drug no longer be used as a preventive measure for older adults without an elevated risk of heart attack or stroke.
"Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease," Dr. Roger S. Blumenthal, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said in March of the guidelines changes. "It's much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin. Aspirin should be limited to people at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease and a very low risk of bleeding."