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Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks
Is an aspirin a day the right thing for you? It's not as easy a decision as it sounds. Know the benefits
and risks before considering daily aspirin therapy.
Source: by Mayo Clinic
Daily aspirin therapy may lower your risk of heart attack, but daily aspirin therapy isn't for
You should a daily aspirin only if your doctor advises you to do so. If you have had a heart
attack or stroke, your doctor will likely recommend you take a daily aspirin unless you have a
serious allergy or history of bleeding. If you have a high risk of having a first heart attack, your
doctor might recommend aspirin after weighing the risks and benefits. You shouldn't start daily
Although taking an occasional aspirin or two is safe for most adults to use for headaches, body
aches or fever, daily use of aspirin can have serious side effects, including internal bleeding.
How can aspirin prevent a heart attack?
Aspirin interferes with your blood's clotting action. When you bleed, your blood's clotting cells,
called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the
opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding.
But this clotting can also happen within the vessels that supply your heart with blood. If your blood vessels are already narrowed from atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries — a fatty deposit in your vessel lining can burst. Then, a blood clot can quickly form and block the artery. This prevents blood flow to the heart and causes a heart attack. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets — possibly preventing a heart attack.
Should you take a daily aspirin?
You shouldn't start daily aspirin therapy on your own in an effort to prevent a heart attack. Your
doctor may suggest daily aspirin therapy if:
You've already had a heart attack or stroke
You haven't had a heart attack, but you have had a stent placed in a coronary artery,
have had coronary bypass surgery, or you have chest pain due to coronary artery disease
You've never had a heart attack, but you're at high risk of having one
You're a man with diabetes older than 50, or a woman with diabetes older than 60
Although aspirin has been recommended in the past for certain groups of people without a
history of heart attack, there's some disagreement among doctors about this approach.
Guidelines are changing and have varied between organizations. The bottom line is that before
taking a daily aspirin you should have a discussion with your doctor.
Should you avoid daily aspirin therapy if you have another health condition?
Before starting daily aspirin therapy under the advice of your doctor, you should let him or her
know if you have a health condition that could increase your risk of bleeding or other
complications. These conditions include:
A bleeding or clotting disorder (bleeding easily)
Aspirin allergy, which can include asthma caused by aspirin
What's the best dose of aspirin to take?
Your doctor will discuss what dose is right for you. Very low doses of aspirin — 75 milligrams
(mg), which is less than a standard baby aspirin — can be effective. Your doctor will usually
prescribe a daily dose anywhere from 81 mg — the amount in a baby aspirin — to 325 mg (a
regular strength tablet). If you have had a heart attack or have had a heart stent placed, it is
very important to take aspirin and any other blood thinning medications exactly as
What happens if you stop taking aspirin every day?
You might be surprised to learn that stopping daily aspirin therapy can have a rebound effect
that may increase your risk of heart attack. If you have had a heart attack or a stent placed in
one or more of your heart arteries, stopping daily aspirin therapy can lead to a life-threatening
heart attack. If you've been taking daily aspirin therapy and want to stop, it's important to talk to
your doctor before making any changes. Suddenly stopping daily aspirin therapy could have a
rebound effect that may trigger a blood clot.
Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks
Can you take aspirin if you regularly take ibuprofen or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
(NSAID) for another condition?
Both aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Motrin,
Advil, others) and naproxen (Aleve), reduce the clotting action of blood platelets. Regular use of
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can increase your bleeding risk, as can other
medications you may take for aches and pains (Tylenol, others).
If you need only a single dose of ibuprofen, take it eight hours before or 30 minutes after the
aspirin. If you need to take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs more often, talk to your doctor about
medication alternatives that won't interfere with daily aspirin therapy.
What are the possible side effects of daily aspirin therapy?
Side effects and complications of taking aspirin include:
Stroke caused by a burst blood vessel.
While daily aspirin can help prevent a clot-
related stroke, it may increase your risk of a bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke).
Daily aspirin use increases your risk of developing a
stomach ulcer. And, if you have a bleeding ulcer or bleeding anywhere else in your
gastrointestinal tract, taking aspirin will cause it to bleed more, perhaps to a life-threatening
If you're allergic to aspirin, taking any amount of aspirin can trigger a
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss.
Too much aspirin (overdosing) can
cause tinnitus and eventual hearing loss in some people.
If you're taking aspirin and need a surgical procedure or dental work, be sure to tell the surgeon
or dentist that you take daily aspirin and how much. Otherwise you risk excessive bleeding
The Food and Drug Administration also warns that people who regularly take aspirin should limit
the amount of alcohol they drink because of its additional blood-thinning effects and potential to
upset your stomach. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that
means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two
drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
What are possible drug interactions with daily aspirin therapy?
If you're already taking an anticoagulant, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), dabigatran
(Pradaxa) or rivaroxaban (Xarelto) for another condition, combining it with aspirin may greatly
increase the risk of major bleeding complications. However, there may be some conditions for
which combining a low dose of aspirin with warfarin is appropriate, such as with artificial heart
valves for secondary stroke prevention. But this therapy always needs to be carefully discussed
Other medications and herbal supplements also may increase your risk of bleeding. Medications
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), when taken regularly
Some antidepressants (clomipramine, paroxetine, others)
Taking some dietary supplements can also increase your bleeding risk. These include:
If you take daily aspirin, is it still safe to take an aspirin during a heart attack?
If you think you're having a heart attack, the most important thing for you to do is call 911 or emergency medical services. Don't
delay calling for help. Aspirin alone won't save your life if you're having a heart attack.
The operator may advise you to chew an aspirin, but will first ask questions to make sure you're not allergic to aspirin or have any
other health conditions that would make taking an aspirin during a heart attack too risky. It's OK to chew an aspirin if your doctor has
previously told you to do so if you think you're having a heart attack — but call 911 or emergency medical services first.
Should you take a coated aspirin?
Enteric-coated aspirin is designed to pass through your stomach and not disintegrate until it reaches your small intestine. It's gentler on the stomach and may be appropriate for some people who take a daily aspirin, especially in those with a history of gastritis or ulcers. However, some researchers think there's no evidence that taking an enteric-coated aspirin decreases your chance of developing gastrointestinal bleeding. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about ways to decrease your bleeding risk.
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