It’s long been considered common knowledge that aspirin reduces the risk of the formation of blood clots, which causes heart attacks and strokes. While it was once used on an occasional basis for fever, or aches and pains, aspirin is now taken daily like a vitamin pill for many. And what’s not to love? It costs two cents a day and has some potential incredible benefits; however, popping aspirin on a daily basis to lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke may not be a good approach for everyone.
It may seem like it’s not that big of a deal, but taking aspirin when you don’t need to can lead to some potentially serious health problems. When you take aspirin, the level of stomach protection is decreased which tends to cause bleeding. As a result, people who take aspirin regularly will have roughly double the likelihood of having an ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding. An unneeded aspirin regimen can also make your blood too thin, causing problems if you need surgery.
Is it for you?
So how do you decide whether or not a regular, preventive dose of aspirin is right for you? Firstly, for those with coronary heart disease the answer is generally yes, unless there is a personal history of stomach bleeding. For those without coronary heart disease the decision is more complicated and is based on your individual risk of having a heart attack versus your risk of bleeding from aspirin. In this case it is best to consult your cardiologist to help you make an informed decision
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to identify those individuals who most likely don’t need to take aspirin on a daily basis. Generally, healthy people in their 20s to 40s, with no cardiac risk factors and no major risk factors for developing the other diseases aspirin can prevent, should not take aspirin unless advised by a physician. For those with very low risk, the focus should be on a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting enough exercise, eating properly, and getting plenty of sleep. These are all safe alternatives to a daily aspirin regimen.
Less is more
Despite the risks, daily aspirin can be beneficial to certain high-risk people, provided they take the appropriate dosage. If you and your doctor decide you should be taking aspirin daily, you need to evaluate how much is right for you. In the case of aspirin and other NSAIDs, a little goes a long way. The recommended dose for someone who needs to be on an aspirin regimen is 81 milligrams a day.
About Dr. Baer
Jefferson Baer, MD, MPH – https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/physicians/b/baer-jefferson.html – is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director of Preventive Cardiology at Emory University Hospital Midtown. Dr. Baer specializes in cardiology and in valvular heart disease. He pursued a degree in medicine from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill NC, and his internship in Internal Medicine and his residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA. He completed his fellowship at the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle WA.