Are you taking an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks and stroke? Your doctor may tell you it’s a good idea. But that’s not necessarily true!
On the one hand, we know that heart disease kills millions of people each year. And aspirin is the most popular blood thinner recommended by allopathic doctors to help prevent heart attacks and stroke. Even some doctors of integrative medicine recommend it.
On the other hand, we’ve heard for years that aspirin isn’t as safe as we were originally led to believe. That’s because it can cause bleeding in the stomach and intestines. Originally, it didn’t sound like this was a particularly significant or widespread problem. But a report in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin disagrees. It found that aspirin can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding and is not worth the risk for everyone.
Doctors have long suggested aspirin for people over 50 with type-2 diabetes or high blood pressure. But this report says that the potential risk for serious bleeding isn’t worth the benefits for these people. Why? Because it doesn’t lower their death rates.
Another study, this one published by the Journal of the American Medicine Association, found that taking 100 mg of aspirin was no more beneficial than a placebo in reducing the occurrences of heart attacks or stroke.
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So who should take aspirin? If you’re taking it for secondary prevention, you might want to keep taking the aspirin. If, however, you’re taking it as a primary preventive of cardiovascular disease, you might want to avoid it.
What’s the difference? Secondary prevention means that you’ve already had at least one heart attack or stroke and you’re using the aspirin to prevent further episodes. Aspirin, or another blood thinner, might be appropriate here.
Primary prevention means you’re using aspirin to prevent your first cardiovascular problems and you don’t have any symptoms. These folks definitely should avoid aspirin. But this isn’t the only reason to avoid aspirin.
What should you do if your doctor recommends you take a low-dose aspirin daily? Avoid all this confusion. Most people don’t need aspirin to prevent heart attacks and stroke. Down the road, I think we’ll see studies saying you should avoid it all together. So whether you’ve had a heart attack or not, look for safer options. You can read about natural sources of blood thinners, including fish oil and vitamin E, on my website. If you think you need a blood thinner, choose one that doesn’t have such serious side effects.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
“Aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease?” DTB vol 47; No 11, November 2009.