By Kaylan Graham, MD
If you have already had a stroke or heart attack, daily aspirin usage is beneficial. It can also be beneficial for people who are high risk for one of these conditions (such as people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a smoking history).
Some research has also shown that daily aspirin use can reduce rates of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. Its benefit for other conditions is still being studied.
Why wouldn’t we recommend aspirin for everyone, then? There is risk associated with taking the medication, particularly when using it daily. Using aspirin to prevent disease requires a person to weigh the risks and benefits with their doctor.
The primary risk when taking aspirin is bleeding. You may notice bruising, or bleeding more easily after cutting yourself. The more dangerous risk is bleeding in the stomach and intestines, or in the brain.
This risk becomes higher when you are older, taking another blood thinner, other anti-inflammatory pain relievers — or have a history of a major bleeding event. For this reason, it is important to speak with your doctor about any over the counter medications you are taking, as well as your medical history, before considering daily aspirin therapy.
If you have already had a stroke, or you have known heart disease, aspirin usage is typically beneficial.
If you have a history of a significant bleeding event, or an allergy to aspirin, then taking the medication daily can be harmful.
People with heart disease, vascular disease (such as a history of stroke), or people at high risk for these conditions should consider taking aspirin daily.
The risks and benefits of taking aspirin daily should be discussed with your doctor.
One of the common myths about taking aspirin is that more is always better. For most conditions, a baby aspirin daily is sufficient to provide benefit. Taking more aspirin can lead to higher risk of side effects, and doesn’t always provide more benefit. You should talk with your doctor about the appropriate amount of aspirin to take daily.
The right amount of aspirin depends on the condition. For most situations, a baby aspirin (81mg) is sufficient. It is important to speak with your doctor about the best dose for you.
This Scripps Health and Wellness information was provided by Dr. Kaylan Graham, internal medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley.