Aspirin may be one of those drugs that you take without thinking – but you might want to think again the next time you reach for that pill bottle.

A new study finds that elderly patients who take low doses of aspirin to deal with their heart disease have higher instances of very small bleeding in the brain.

These "microbleeds" are so small they can only be seen with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, but their very presence is alarming enough.

The researchers say their study, published in the Archives of Neurology, raises questions such as whether these microbleeds can lead to more severe brain hemorrhaging, and if aspirin plays a role in that.

Microbleeds are more common in elderly people in general, regardless of whether they regularly take aspirin. But this study also makes me wonder if a lifetime of pill-popping has helped lead to the condition as well.

Aspirin is one of those drugs too many people take far too often. And even at low doses, regular use of aspirin can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting and bleeding ulcers, as well as other side effects.

Yet many people eat them like jellybeans at the slightest symptoms of pain. Folks who battle arthritis often need aspirin just to get through the day.

If you're in that group, you don't need to tell me how often you hit that bottle. Chances are, you buy the jumbo-sized tubs of aspirin from a warehouse store.

But you don't have to live that way. I put together a three-step plan to reverse arthritis in the May issue of Health Revelations, and you can subscribe now to get complete access to the archives by clicking here.

Other folks just decide that some pains are simply from the bumps and bruises of life. They pop a few aspirin and move on.

The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. Many of the aches and pains we deal with are not conditions of their own, but signs of something else going on. When you take an aspirin, you might mask the pain – but the underlying condition remains.

If your pains are being caused by something other than arthritis, then it's time to put down the pill bottle and pay a visit to your doctor. Everything from frequent headaches to muscle aches can be symptoms of conditions ranging from missing nutrients to undiagnosed injuries.

If left untreated – and no, aspirin doesn't count as treatment – many of these conditions are likely to get worse over time. The best thing you can do for yourself is stop popping pills and find out what's really causing you pain.