Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rethinking that daily aspirin

It used to be recommended that people take an aspirin every day in order to lower their risk of heart attack.  In recent years, though, this recommendation has come under fire.  I can remember when they pointed out that the studies that found a daily aspirin was helpful had actually not been done on women, and it had been found that the daily aspirin actually wasn't helpful for women.

Now they're going further, and saying that if you are healthy, the benefits of the daily aspirin are actually outweighed by the risks.

Aspirin thins the blood and can help prevent blood clots that can clog blood vessels and cause strokes and heart attacks. But long-term use of the drug also increases the risk of ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding and bleeding in the brain.

"Everyone agrees that for people who have already had a cardiac event, the benefits outweigh the risk," Williams says.

But for most other people, the chance that aspirin will prevent a first heart attack is about equal to the chance that it will cause harmful side effects, research suggests.

The American Heart Association says aspirin should be used only for prevention when someone's risk for heart disease is especially high.
So don't just pop an aspirin without regard to your risk.  I know diabetics are generally considered to have a high risk, but I've long suspected that has to do with the overall health and habits of people who are diagnosed as type 2 (rather than simply the fact of being diabetic).  If you have your diabetes under good control, and you are otherwise fairly healthy, you may not be as high-risk as you think.  If you don't feel like you fall into that high-risk category, you may not need that daily aspirin, after all.

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