When most people think of aspirin, they think of curing headaches. However, it can have other important health benefits besides simple pain relief. In low doses, taken regularly, it can lower the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and a variety of other problems. Many people over 50 take an aspirin a day in order to stay healthy. Should you? It depends on a number of factors. Here are a few things to take into consideration.
A Host of Benefits
You might be a good candidate for taking an aspirin a day if you…
- Have had a heart attack or stroke in the past
- Are at a high risk for a heart attack
- Have angina
- Have had coronary bypass surgery in the past
- Have diabetes and smoke or have high blood pressure
Daily low dose aspirin is often recommended for adults between the ages of 50 and 60. In people older than that, it can be a bit riskier, but may still be helpful. The key is in finding the right dosage. Depending on your condition and your risk factors, even just half a pill per day can be effective for some—while for others, doctors prescribe a regular, ordinary-strength aspirin daily.
Risks of Aspirin
Aspirin helps to thin out the blood, which is what helps to prevent heart attacks and relieve high blood pressure. However, it can also cause bleeding if you’re not careful. Therefore, you probably shouldn’t take it if you have any kind of blood or clotting disorder that causes you to bleed more easily. Also avoid it if you have a bleeding stomach ulcer. Of course, if you’re allergic to aspirin then even a low dosage of the pill could be harmful to you.
There are also a number of medications and dietary supplements that can have adverse reactions/interactions with aspirin, including certain painkillers (such as ibuprofen in its various forms) and antidepressants, along with gingko, fish oil, and others. Before taking any new medication, talk to your doctor about any possible problems and make sure it doesn’t interact negatively with any of your existing medications.
Finally, if you do take an aspirin a day to decrease the risk of heart disease, be very careful. If you stop suddenly, your risk can end up increasing instead. Talk to your doctor beforehand to see if and how you can discontinue the medication safely.
Side Effects of Aspirin
Since aspirin increases the danger of bleeding, you may be at increased risk during a surgery or dental procedure. Make sure whoever is recommending and performing the procedure knows that you’re taking it, so that they can advise you.
Another potential side effect is something of a double edged sword. While low dose aspirin can decrease your risk of a clot-related stroke, it can also increase the danger of having a bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke. You might also be more likely to get a stomach ulcer or other form of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Taking a low dose aspirin every day can be very beneficial in some cases, but it’s not for everyone. It’s important that you talk to your doctor before you start taking it, or any new medication. They can determine, based on your medical history, if it would help you, or if it might react badly with any of your existing medications or conditions.
If they decide that it’s not right for you, then there are plenty of other steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Communication with your doctor is the most important step, though. The more you talk to them, the better they’ll be able to help you.