Aspirin is a popular over-the-counter medication to treat headaches, pain and fever. Many older adults take the drug to protect against heart attacks, especially in those who have suffered one in the past. Millions of people take aspirin every day.
Even though there are some studies that claim aspirin does more harm than good, the drug has many benefits, including helping COVID patients, cutting risk of heart attacks and stroke, and protecting against mental health impairment from air pollution, among others.
StudyFinds has published numerous studies demonstrating the health benefits of taking aspirin daily. Here’s a look at six of those pieces of research. You should always consult with your doctor first before taking any new medications.
Aspirin protects against mental impairments from air pollution exposure
One report finds people living in areas with higher levels of air pollution might be able to protect themselves simply by taking aspirin.
Researchers from Columbia University in New York warn that even just a few weeks of exposure to air pollution can impair mental performance. Despite this damage, their study finds nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin appear to counter pollution’s short-term effects.
Researchers examined 954 older white men from the Boston area during their investigation. They looked at the link between exposure to fine particulate matter and black carbon and the group’s cognitive performance using the Global Cognitive Function (GCF) and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scales. Study authors gauged air pollution levels by examining a site in Boston.
Results show inhaling fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over 28 days led to lower GCF and MMSE scores among participants. However, men taking aspirin experienced fewer short-term cognitive impairments, according to test results. “Despite regulations on emissions, short-term spikes in air pollution remain frequent and have the potential to impair health, including at levels below that usually considered hazardous,” says senior author Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, chair of the school’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “Taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs appears to mitigate these effects, although policy changes to further restrict air pollution are still warranted.”
READ MORE: Aspirin protects against mental impairments from air pollution exposure
Helps COVID patients avoid ventilator, lowers risk of death
Many may be able to prevent severe COVID-19 infection and potential death by taking low dose aspirin. In a study led by researchers at George Washington University, aspirin worked to protect the lungs of COVID-19 patients. Researchers say the drug may minimize the requirement for mechanical ventilation and admission to the ICU, as well as help reduce the number of deaths due to coronavirus.
The study includes data from GW Hospital patients, as well as those from the University of Maryland Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Health System, and other hospitals spanning the country. More than 400 COVID patients were included in the study, all of who were admitted to the hospital between March and July of 2020. Comorbidities and other risk factors including patient demographics were accounted for.
Results show those who used aspirin had a 44% lower risk of having to be ventilated, as well as a 43% lower risk of ICU admission. Moreover, the mortality rate of those in the hospital was reduced by 47%. Aspirin users and non-aspirin users had no significant variations in severe bleeding or apparent thrombosis.
“Aspirin is low cost, easily accessible and millions are already using it to treat their health conditions,” says Dr. Jonathan Chow, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine. “Finding this association is a huge win for those looking to reduce risk from some of the most devastating effects of COVID-19.”
READ MORE: Aspirin may help COVID patients avoid ventilator, lowers risk of death
It reduces risk of COVID-19 infection entirely, helps patients recover faster
Research suggests aspirin can even help regulate immune responses to viral infections. With aspirin’s virus-fighting abilities in mind, a team of Israeli researchers set out to see if aspirin can help in the fight against COVID-19. Sure enough, their work suggests taking aspirin can reduce one’s risk of contracting the virus.
More specifically, study authors from Bar-Ilan University hypothesized that a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin (75mg) may offer a “beneficial effect on COVID-19 susceptibility and disease duration.”
To test their theory, researchers analyzed data on 10,477 people tested for COVID-19 in Israel between February and June 2020. That work led them to this conclusion: in comparison to non-aspirin users, generally healthy patients using aspirin to avoid the development of cardiovascular disease experienced a 29% lower risk of COVID-19 infection.
Moreover, patients testing positive for COVID-19 who took aspirin recovered faster and tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 quicker than COVID-19 patients not using aspirin. On average, aspirin users recovered two to three days faster than other coronavirus patients.
READ MORE: Aspirin may reduce risk of COVID-19 infection, help patients recover faster
Aspirin boosts chances of surviving breast, bladder cancers
One study finds that taking a few aspirin tablets each week may also be the key to surviving certain cancers. Researchers with the National Cancer Institute say taking aspirin at least three times a week can significantly cut the risk of dying from breast or bladder cancer.
Millions pop the over-the-counter “wonderpill” daily in the hopes it will protect against heart disease. Aspirin thins the blood, reducing the risk of blood clots. Its anti-inflammatory effects are also believed to reduce the risk of colon cancer and some other forms of the disease.
Those with breast or bladder cancer who reported taking aspirin at least three times a week improved their survival rates by a quarter and a third, respectively. Moreover, any use of the drug at all reduced the risk of death from those diseases by 21 and 25 percent, respectively. “Although aspirin use at least 3 times/week was associated with the strongest risk reduction, any aspirin use was associated with increased bladder and breast cancer survival,” study authors write. “These results may indicate that for some cancer types, any aspirin use may be advantageous; however, greater benefit may be observed with increased frequency of use.”
READ MORE: Taking aspirin 3 times weekly boosts chances of surviving breast, bladder cancers
Keeps grieving hearts healthy, too
Losing a loved one, especially a spouse or child, is one of the most painful experiences of the human condition and initially puts people at higher risk for heart attacks and death. It turns out some common medications may help keep healthy hearts among those grieving a loss, a study finds.
Researchers with the University of Sydney wanted to find out whether the same medications used in routine care for high-risk cardiac patients — beta blockers and aspirin — could also help in the short term for people going through the beginning stage of bereavement.
The research team studied 85 spouses or parents who had lost family members within the last two weeks. The participants were split into two groups. For six weeks, a control group of 43 participants received placebos, while the other 42 participants were given low daily doses of a beta blocker and aspirin. Heart rate and blood pressure were strictly monitored on all participants, and blood tests determined any changes in blood clotting.
Researchers found that participants taking the medications once daily in low doses had fewer blood pressure and heart rate spikes and were less prone to blood clots.
READ MORE: In mourning? Common medication may keep grieving hearts healthy, study finds
Protects lungs from air pollution
Aspirin is already used to relieve a variety of pains and reduce inflammation, but a study has discovered another possible benefit: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, may help diminish the harmful effects of air pollution on lung function. The research, conducted at Columbia University, is the first ever to report such evidence.
To come to their conclusions, the research team analyzed a dataset collected from 2,280 male veterans with an average age of 73 hailing from the Boston area. Each man was given multiple tests measuring their lung function and overall health. The relationship between each participant’s lung test results, self-reported NSAID (aspirin) use, and particulate matter (PM) / black carbon levels in Boston during the month prior to testing was evaluated. Additional factors were also considered, such as each man’s personal medical history and whether or not he was a regular smoker.
Researchers discovered that the use of any NSAID mitigated the negative effect of PM on lung function by nearly half. This finding was consistent across all four air pollution readings taken during the study, ranging from PM levels collected on the very same day that lung testing took place, to as long ago as 28 days prior to testing.
Most of the participants in the study were taking aspirin, so the study author’s say their findings apply mainly to aspirin specifically. That being said, they also believe non-aspirin NSAIDs likely have the same positive effect on lung function and should be investigated further.
READ MORE: Study: Aspirin may protect lungs from air pollution
Always make sure to talk to a medical professional about taking aspirin. If you are prescribed medication, never stop taking your regular doses without speaking to your doctor first.