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The Truth About Taking A Daily Low-Dose Aspirin

The Truth About Taking A Daily Low-Dose Aspirin

Considering taking a daily dose of aspirin to combat heart disease? Here’s what you need to know.

Newspaper articles about who should and shouldn’t take a daily aspirin have caused confusion because many headlines made it sound like, “you should stop.”

The correct answer is, “It depends on your health (for example, body weight seems to alter the benefits and risks of daily aspirin) and why you are taking aspirin (there are more reasons than just heart health).

So, let us break it down so you can talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

Pros and cons of taking aspirin daily
Turns out more than six million folks in the U.S. take daily aspirin without a doc’s recommendation. If that describes you, go—pronto—to see your primary care physician or cardiologist to find out if you should be taking it—and if you are taking it correctly: That’s always with a half glass of hot water, tea or coffee before and after. A daily aspirin does increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, so the risk-benefit ratio has to land in your favor.

Aspirin and heart disease prevention
According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017, about 29.9 million Americas age 40 and older took a daily aspirin to prevent or manage heart disease—and that includes around 10 million heart-healthy 70-year-olds who take aspirin to prevent its onset. And it turns out some folks do not need to and should not take a daily aspirin to prevent heart disease, even though their doctor had previously recommended it.

People who shouldn’t take aspirin to prevent heart disease:

  • Anyone over the age of 70 who does not have existing cardiovascular disease.
  • Anyone with an increased bleeding risk because of other medications or conditions such as an ulcer, or who does extreme sports or doesn’t use a car seatbelt or wear a helmet when skiing/biking/blading.
  • Folks under the age of 70—on an individual basis—whose risk of heart disease is low or moderate. Turns out, individual bleeding risks vary widely and that’s why for these folks it’s a case-by-case decision made with their doctor.

As always, consult with your doctor before taking aspirin to make sure it’s right for your unique health needs.

Tip: Eating a plant-based diet, getting regular physical activity, avoiding smoking (anything) and keeping healthy sleep habits go a long way in preventing heart disease.

Other benefits of aspirin
Aspirin is not only effective in slashing the risk for a second heart attack or stroke, it also reduces—by more than 20 percent—the risk of colorectal, esophageal, stomach, breast, liver and pancreatic cancer, as well as blood cell cancers. And there are ways to reduce the internal bleeding risks associated with taking daily aspirin: A 2018 study that looked at more than 600,000 folks for up to 14 years found daily low-dose aspirin significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer. Additionally, the researchers learned the increased gastrointestinal bleeding risks associated with taking daily aspirin can be reduced with the use of medicines that suppress stomach acid.

Those health benefits (plus prevention of cardiovascular and inflammatory disease) are why Dr. Mike recommends most men over 35 and women over 45 should check with their doc about taking one low-dose aspirin in the morning and one in the evening. That is, so long as they don’t do extreme sports, are reliable pill takers and always take aspirin with a warm beverage.

Talk to your doctor
If you think it may be smart to stop taking your daily aspirin, talk with you doc about tapering off. Don’t stop abruptly and risk a rebound effect that makes you more vulnerable to stroke or heart attack.

And if it sounds like you’re a candidate for a daily aspirin regimen for your heart health or to reduce your cancer risk, again, ask your doc. Don’t take aspirin without making sure you’ll reap the benefits and be able to manage any risks.

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