5 Reasons Your Doctor May Recommend Daily Aspirin
Aspirin has been a staple in medicine cabinets for years. It's an over-the-counter pain reliever that people rely on. But it can do more than just ease pain. A low-dose aspirin taken every day can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Still, taking aspirin daily is not without risk. Aspirin is one of many drugs called NSAIDs—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. When you have pain or a fever, your body releases inflammatory substances called prostaglandins. Aspirin lowers the amount of prostaglandins your body produces. When taking aspirin for pain or fever, take it only as directed and don’t take it for a long period of time.
However, there are times when taking daily aspirin is appropriate. Here are five:
The best candidates for daily aspirin are people at risk for a heart attack. Their doctor might prescribe a dose that is much lower than the regular-strength dose of 325 milligrams (mg). The usual low-dose amount is 81 mg. That's the amount in a baby aspirin. Your doctor may also suggest a coated type of aspirin if you have ulcers or other stomach problems.
Aspirin reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke in a simple way. Most heart attacks and strokes occur because normal blood flow is blocked. Clogged arteries or a blood clot can cause this. However, aspirin thins the blood and prevents blood clots. This improves its flow through your veins and reduces these health risks.
The flip side is its blood-thinning ability also can make aspirin dangerous. So, your doctor will only recommend low-dose daily aspirin if you are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Having a heart attack or stroke increases your risk for having another heart attack or stroke. Your doctor may tell you to take a daily aspirin as a preventive measure. It works the same way as preventing a first heart attack—it thins the blood and prevents blood clots.
After surgery, your doctor might recommend daily aspirin for a fixed amount of time. This will help ease your pain and make movement easier. It also will lessen your chances of developing a blood clot from surgery. "Thin" blood is less likely to clot. Your doctor will explain how to taper back aspirin use as you begin to feel better.
Having certain heart operations puts you at high risk for a heart attack. Coronary bypass is one of them. Having a stent put in is another. Make sure you and your doctor discuss whether you need to take a daily aspirin if have any type of heart surgery.
Diabetes makes you at least twice as likely to have heart disease as someone who doesn't have diabetes. This is especially true if you don't control your blood sugar consistently over time. Some people with diabetes also have other heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If this is the case, they may be candidates for taking a daily aspirin.
Certain people may not be good candidates for taking aspirin every day. People who are regular alcohol drinkers and people at risk for stomach bleeding are not good candidates for daily aspirin. It may also include people who have liver or kidney disease. Also, some people are sensitive or allergic to aspirin.
Your doctor or dentist may tell you not to take aspirin for a certain time before a medical or dental procedure. If you're already on a low-dose daily aspirin, you'll need to stop taking it temporarily to reduce your risk of bleeding.
Aspirin can have negative consequences if you take it with some other drugs. Taking daily aspirin and also taking certain blood thinners can thin the blood too much. This can be dangerous. Also, NSAIDs can interact with some medicines, such as blood pressure drugs.
Because of the risks, it’s important to never start an aspirin regimen on your own—even a low-dose regimen. Always talk with your doctor first and follow his or her advice.