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Daily Aspirin Carries Its Own Risks

Since its formulation in 1897, aspirin has been renowned as a miracle drug. Commonly used for minor pain relief, high fever, and anti-inflammation, aspirin became available over-the-counter almost a century ago in 1915 and remains arguably one of the best selling drugs in history.

Since 1988, Bayer AG, the makers of aspirin, have advocated for the daily intake of aspirin as a way to prevent stroke or heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Aspirin became so widely recommended and purchased in this context that Bayer proposed changing labels on its bottles to boast its heart healthy benefits, and as you can imagine, clinical studies ensued.

After more than a decade of testing, the US Food and Drug Administration rejected Bayer’s proposition in May 2014 and announced that ‘healthy’ individuals who take one aspirin a day to prevent cardiac disease should discontinue this practice immediately.

Does this mean that everyone should stop taking aspirin?
Not necessarily. If you are relatively healthy for your age and have never had a heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular problems, there is no additional benefit in the aspirin regimen. In fact, the side effects of taking an aspirin each day pose more risk than advantage, with studies concluding that those who were healthy and took aspirin daily were found to be at a higher risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, brain hemorrhage, and even kidney failure.

Aspirin works by lowering the ability of blood to clump together. While it is perfectly safe for this use, it is the repeated exposure that can cause higher risk in an otherwise healthy individual.

In that case, who should use the daily aspirin regimen?
Only those who have suffered from heart attack or stroke, have heart disease, or have had an angioplasty or bypass surgery should continue taking aspirin daily. Studies have shown that aspirin works well in secondary prevention, meaning if you have already had a heart condition in the past. Always check with your doctor prior to beginning a daily aspirin regimen.

If you have not suffered from cardiovascular disease but know that your personal and familial history place you at high risk, please consult your physician about whether aspirin therapy is appropriate for you.

To further assess your current heart health or risk, Virtual Imaging can help. Our advanced EBT HeartScan can identify potential cardiovascular problems and prepare you for a conversation with your specialist. Call us today at 770.730.0119 to schedule an appointment.