Aspirin may help the heart, but one in ten patients will also develop an ulcer, new research shows

Aspirin has long been hailed as one of the most effective, low-cost ways to help guard against a heart attack or stroke. However, international medical researchers caution that low doses of aspirin also increase a patient's chance of developing an ulcer, often without warning signs.

The JUPITER study measured the prevalence and incidence of gastroduodenal ulcers among 187 aspirin therapy patients from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain.

It found one in ten people taking low-dose aspirin to prevent a stroke or heart attack had a stomach ulcer at any point in time, with older patients aged 70 years and over, as well as those infected with the bacterium 'Helicobacter pylori', three times more at risk.

But despite their ulcers, the patients experienced virtually none of the expected warning symptoms, like indigestion, abdominal pain, acid reflux, nausea or bloating. In fact, their ulcers were undetected until the patients underwent an endoscopy.

The study was led by gastroenterologist, Professor Neville Yeomans - the Dean of the University of Western Sydney's Medical School.

The team also included researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia; Hospital Clinico Universitario Lozano Blesa in Zaragosa, Spain; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA; the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada; pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca in Sweden; and the University Hospital in Nottingham, UK.

Professor Yeomans says aspirin is an important treatment in patients at high-risk of heart attack, and stresses that the benefits of aspirin therapy for these patients far outweigh any side-effects. He advises concerned patients to discuss their circumstances with their GP or physician.

But he says the findings are food for thought for otherwise healthy people with low-risk or no history of vascular disease, who might see aspirin as a 'wonder drug' and are contemplating popping one every day as a simple preven

Contact: Amanda Whibley
Research Australia

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