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Aspirin & Heart Health

If you ask most people, chances are they either know someone who takes a low dose of aspirin every day to help them lower their risk of a heart attack, or they have heard the long-standing medical adage before.

Unfortunately for many, this is enough for them to begin the practice themselves – an ounce prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say – but it can raise the question of whether your preventative measures are doing more harm than good.

Dr. Byron Cryer, a spokesman for the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) says, “It’s weighing the potential benefits against potential risk. Treatment of heart disease to prevent heart attack versus the risk of having a gastrointestinal bleed, which is the greatest concern with aspirin.”

What You Need to Know

While prevention in any medical issue is advisable, when the risks are potentially high, it is time to reevaluate.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t take aspirin daily unless you have suffered from a heart attack in the past.

However, if your physicians feels that you are at a risk of having one – 10% or more – they might prescribe a low dosage.

Any dosage is based upon the risk components of heart disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol and family history.

How Much?

Even for those who are at a high risk of suffering from a heart attack, the daily dosage of aspirin is usually pretty low (81 mg/day or a baby aspirin), however, that doesn’t alleviate the risk of complications, for even at a low dose, the blood-thinning effects of aspirin can cause bleeding in your stomach.

A big concern with a daily regime of aspirin is that it affects the prostaglandins in your stomach, and these help to protect the lining of your stomach from being damage. Very often, it can strip these away leaving you and your stomach more susceptible to bleeding.

Know Your Meds

Much like everything in this world, nothing is created equal, and some things don’t mix with one another – pain medicine falls within that category.

Aspirin falls under the category of drugs known as NSAIDs. While they are fantastic for helping to soothe and alleviate inflammation, they come with the risk of cause stomach bleeding.

However, when you take aspirin on a regular basis, and combine with other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, you risk of developing bleeding increases six times over.

For pain relief, especially if you are older and on a daily regime of aspirin, the safest option is acetaminophen, because it doesn’t come with the same risks of stomach bleeding.

What to Look Out For

It goes without saying, but if you are allergic to aspirin don’t take it. Also, if you are on a regime of blood thinners, then you should talk with your doctor before taking aspirin as it can further increase your chance of gastrointestinal bleeding.