Aspirin a Day? Know the Risks, Benefits

Aspirin a Day - Know Risks and Benefits - Large

Should you, or should you not, take a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke? It’s a matter of weighing the benefits against the risks, with the help of your doctor or health care provider.

The evidence is clear that a daily dose of aspirin reduces risk for a second heart attack or clot-related stroke. But if you have a healthier heart, the risks of daily aspirin — such as increased bleeding — may exceed the benefits.

If you have a 10 percent or greater risk of coronary artery disease or stroke, you should be on aspirin.

If you’ve had a heart attack, if you’ve had a stroke or if you’ve had a stent placed (in an artery) or bypass surgery, aspirin will definitely decrease your risk of dying 20, 30 percent over a 10-year period.

Aspirin Not for Everyone

The American Heart Association also recommends a daily aspirin if you are at high risk of a first heart attack or stroke, as determined by your doctor or health care provider.

If you have a 10 percent or greater risk of coronary artery disease or stroke, you should be on aspirin. To determine risk, doctors use a variety of factors such as age, gender and assessments of cholesterol, blood pressure and other health indicators.

Aspirin thins blood, lowering the risk of clot formation that can trigger heart attack and stroke. For those with lower heart disease and stroke risk, this blood thinning quality raises the potential risks of aspirin above its benefits.

In this case, aspirin can bring on unwanted side effects, such as bleeding into the brain or gastrointestinal tract and bleeding from minor injuries that normally would only bruise.

Talk with Your Doctor First

To know whether regular aspirin use is appropriate for you — that the benefits outweigh the risks — talk with your doctor or health care provider. Ask:Aspirin a Day - Know Risks and Benefits - In Content

  • What are your chances of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years?
  • Would aspirin benefit you?
  • What side effects could you experience from taking aspirin?
  • Will aspirin interfere with or negatively interact with other medications you take?
  • Should you stop taking aspirin before surgery or dental work?

Make sure your doctor is fully aware of your medical history — in particular, ulcers or bleeding problems — and all medications and supplements you take. Your doctor can advise you of potentially harmful interactions of aspirin with blood thinners and other prescription medications, supplements and over-the-counter medications.

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