Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Aspirin a Day May Keep Strokes and Heart Attacks Away

Have you ever heard that you should “take an aspirin everyday” for good health, or “an aspirin a day keeps the doctor away”? If so, have you ever wondered if there was any truth to it? The answer is yes and no.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in America – responsible for about 1 in every 4 deaths. This is especially true in Mississippi where that number is higher by a large margin when compared to the rest of the country. Much of the time deaths due to heart disease are caused by very small blood clots in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The clot causes part of the heart to die and sometimes stop working completely.

Another leading cause of death, 5th on the list per the CDC, is ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes are usually caused by a small blood clot in the brain that in turn causes that part of the brain to stop communicating with the rest of the body. This lack of communication causes long lasting deficits like the inability to speak, move a body part, smile, chew, swallow, or walk. Sometimes these clots cause death as well.

One method of preventing these common and terrible diseases that are caused by blood clots is to thin the blood out – just a little bit. Perhaps one of the oldest medicines around today that can accomplish this task is Aspirin. Of course there are side effects such as bleeding, upset stomach, bruising, and many others.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended a baby aspirin daily – but not for everyone. This recommendation is for men ages 45-79 and women ages 55-79. People who are older or younger than these parameters have not been shown to have enough benefit to outweigh the risks unless there is another compelling reason to do so. Also, those who are allergic to aspirin or those who have increased risks of bleeding or who are taking certain other medications would likely not experience a large enough benefit to outweigh the risks of taking aspirin.

Weighing risks and benefits is one of the unique challenges in medicine and the answer is not always the same for everyone. Start a discussion with your doctor today to find out if a baby aspirin everyday would help you prevent strokes and heart attacks. If you can’t take aspirin, there maybe other options to help reduce your risk factors.