For a long time it’s been said that an aspirin a day keeps the heart attacks away, but that is not always true. While taking aspirin can help lower the risk of heart disease, the risks can outweigh the benefits in some cases. This makes it hard to determine whether or not aspirin is the “wonder drug” that it’s been named for so long. You should consult with your doctor before making a decision, but here are some general guidelines you can follow.
If you are at elevated risk for heart attack or stroke, or if you have a documented personal or family history of heart disease, you should consider taking an aspirin each day. Aspirin reduces the body’s production of prostaglandins, which lessens pain, reduces fever, and keeps blood platelets from sticking together to form clots. (via UC Davis Health System)
If you have diabetes, you should consider taking an aspirin each day. Patients with diabetes are two to four times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than individuals without diabetes.
If you are over the age of 50 and have even one risk factor for heart disease, you should consider taking aspirin daily after consulting a medical professional. Risk factors include a history of heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), being overweight, not exercising, smoking, having high cholesterol or being diabetic. Many risk factors are controllable and making changes to your lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart disease.
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If you are having a heart attack, you should take two 81-milligram tablets after calling emergency medical personnel. Even if you decide not to take aspirin every day, you should keep it on hand in case you or someone in your home experiences chest pain or tightness preceding a heart attack.
If you have high blood pressure, do not take aspirin daily until you are healthier. While it is a risk for heart attack, high blood pressure also increases the risk for hemorrhagic strokes, meaning a ruptured blood vessel that leaks into the brain. Aspirin can make this kind of stroke worse.
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If you consume more then three alcoholic drinks every day, you should not take aspirin daily. Aspirin with alcohol can increase the risk of stomach bleeding. If you do take aspirin daily, ask your doctor if you can consume alcohol in moderation.
If you suffer from severe liver or kidney disease, you should not take aspirin daily. While aspirin has not been proven to cause liver or kidney disease, there is a possibility that it will cause kidney or liver failure; however, the risk is low if you do not have a preexisting condition. To be safe, consult your doctor.
If you have prior gastrointestinal bleeding, you should not take aspirin daily. Dosage is more closely related to bleeding than duration of use. Consult your doctor to know how much you should be taking, if at all.
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If you are under 40 years of age and have no risk of heart disease, you should not take aspirin daily. In this case, the risks likely outweigh the benefits as aspirin can cause complications where there may have been none before if you take it too frequently or in inappropriate doses.
The bottom line is that there are risks to taking aspirin, and before you include the little white pills in your daily routine, you should consult your doctor to see if it will be beneficial. Your healthcare professional can help you sort through the onslaught of facts to decide what is best for you.
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