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Is "An Aspirin a Day" Good Advice?

“An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.” It’s an old saying, but is there any truth to that? Daily aspirin is a controversial topic, and it’s important to know the risks and benefits before starting this therapy.

By Katie Martin, Family Nurse Practitioner at Barnesville Area Clinic

“An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.” It’s an old saying, but is there any truth to that? Daily aspirin is a controversial topic, and it’s important to know the risks and benefits before starting this therapy.

Aspirin is classified as a “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug” (NSAID). This means it helps to decrease inflammation in the body, which can be a very beneficial effect, especially when considering the blood vessels in your heart and brain. One of the main reasons people are prescribed a daily aspirin is to help prevent a second heart attack or stroke. If you have certain risk factors for heart attack or stroke, your healthcare provider may want you to take a daily aspirin even if you haven’t had a heart attack or stroke before. 

A question I am often asked is “should everyone take an aspirin?” The short answer to that is no, an aspirin daily is not something everyone should take. The American Heart Association (AHA) released guidelines in 2019 recommending that patients who have not had a heart attack or stroke should not take aspirin daily, because there has not been proven benefits if there are no other risk factors. There are side effects to aspirin, as with any other medication. These side effects include bleeding and bruising, ulcers, and potential interaction with other medications and herbal supplements. If you are someone who is prone to falls, or at high risk for injury, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not aspirin is a safe medication for you to take. 

Another consideration is the interactions with medications and herbal supplements. Other medications that are in the same class as aspirin include ibuprofen and naproxen, which are commonly taken for injuries or chronic pain. When taken together, it increases the risk for bruising, bleeding and stomach ulcers.  Herbal supplements, although natural, do have the potential to interact with aspirin as well. Some of the supplements known to interact include gingko, dong quai, feverfew, ginseng and turmeric, among others. Taking these with aspirin can increase the risk for bleeding problems.  It’s important to let your healthcare provider know if you are taking any herbal supplements so he or she can make an informed decision on whether or not aspirin is a medication you should take on a regular basis. 

If you’re wondering what you can do to prevent a heart attack or stroke, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, regular physical activity, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol are all good places to start. In addition, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she will know your health history and can make recommendations based on your specific needs. If you don’t have a primary provider, find one who will take the time to listen to your questions. 

As a final reminder: Don’t delay your preventative needs. If it’s been more than a year since your last physical, get one scheduled! 

 

About the Author: Katie is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Lake Region Healthcare’s Barnesville Area Clinic (BAC). She received her Master of Science Degree from the University of North Dakota and is certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Katie has a special interest in women’s health and geriatrics and serves patients alongside Dr. Owen Thompson, Dr. Sunnah Doesken and Carrie Affield, PA at the BAC.

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