(NBC News) Many people take a daily baby aspirin to prevent heart attacks, but new research suggests it may do nothing unless you already have heart disease.
Researchers in Japan looked at whether a daily, low-dose aspirin would reduce deaths from heart attack and stroke in people over age 60.
None of the study participants had ever had a heart attack, but they all had a condition that would raise the risk for one, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
After five years doctors found no significant benefit in lowering the chance of dying from a first heart attack.
But because the study is from Japan, it may not apply to the U.S. population.
“Unless you’re Japanese, it doesn’t necessarily apply to you directly, but I think it provides further evidence of how difficult it is to show benefit for primary prevention,” says the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Richard Krasuski.
Other studies of aspirin are currently ongoing in the United States and should offer more clarity on aspirin’s role in preventing heart attacks.
Tried and true methods of helping to prevent heart disease include quitting smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet, while aspirin can have side effects, like bleeding.
Experts recommend talking to your primary care physician to find out if aspirin therapy is right for you.