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For years people have been heari ...

Posted Jul 01 2009 6:38pm

pill For years people have been hearing that a baby aspirin a day helps prevent the blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.  There are a few a major factors that need to be considered before deciding to start this regimen, especially because baby aspirin is readily available to any person with the fear of having a heart attack.

Number one:  check with your health practitioner.  They can help assess if the benefits of clot prevention outway the damage to your stomach lining.

Number two:  you should be at high risk for having another heart attack or stroke if you have already had one, or are at a very high risk due to other factors such as high blood pressure, advanced cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc…  Recent studies have shown that while taking a baby aspirin cuts the risk of a heart attack by one fifth, it increases the risk of internal gastrointestinal bleeding by 1/3, and has no effect on the occurrence of stroke in healthier patients.  Your risks for having a cardiovascular accident need to strongly and clearly outweigh the likelihood of GI problems caused by the aspirin.

Number three:  consider how prone you are to GI bleeding problems.  Folks who take other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications, like advil and tylenol, for other problems have an increased risk of GI bleeds.  NSAIDs break down in a very specific area of the stomach, weakening the stomach lining in that area.  Depending on the daily dosage and length of treatment, the risk for a bleed greatly increases.  For example, my father used to work in construction and would take at least 12  (sometimes more) advil a day, for years.  Luckily he is no longer doing construction, thus no longer in daily pain, and I’m sure his stomach is thankful.  This is a prime example of a man who would not have needed to add a baby aspirin into the mix.

***A pearl of wisdom passed on from my teacher to me, from me to you:  if you or someone you know experiences stools that resemble sticky coffee grounds, immediately go to the hospital or urgent care center.  This is a sign of a large GI bleed.***

To learn more about recent studies regarding daily aspirin check out this BBC News health site article and this article from The Boston Globe.

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