by: Rick Lasica, BS
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy PharmD Candidate, Class of 2017
Many people take aspirin occasionally to provide relief from various conditions (e.g. pain, inflammation, fever, headaches), but what about taking a low-dose aspirin every day for prevention reasons? As with all medications, aspirin poses various benefits and risks that need to be taken into consideration before you start taking it. Studies have shown that certain individuals would benefit the most from taking a low-dose aspirin and others shouldn’t take it at all.
Why Take Low Dose Aspirin?
Our bodies make cells called platelets, which help stop us from bleeding uncontrollably. In order to stop this unnecessary bleeding, a blood clot is formed. In this case, the blood clot is beneficial, but sometimes blood clots are formed when they aren’t needed, which have the potential to lead to a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly referred to as a “blood thinner” because it stops platelets from working together to form a blood clot.
Even though aspirin has many potential benefits, it also has many side effects, some serious, that might occur. Most importantly, it can increase your risk of bleeding, both inside and outside of your body. This might be noticed through your gums bleeding while brushing your teeth, any unexplained bruising on your body, or black/tarry stools. Other side effects that might occur are ringing in the ears, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, or yellowing of the eyes/skin.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that people aged 50-59 years with an increased risk of heart problems who have never had a heart attack or stroke in the past would likely benefit from taking a daily low-dose aspirin in order to help reduce the chance of one from happening. Also, people who have had a heart attack or stroke are at an increased risk of having another one, and would likely benefit from it as well.
However, you should never start taking aspirin, or any medication, before talking with your physician or pharmacist about it. They will make an assessment of your condition and weigh the benefits and risks of you taking it and make the ultimate decision of whether or not you should take it as part of your daily regimen. Certain people should not take aspirin if they have had any serious bleeding events, are on certain medications, have a high fall risk, or have specific medical conditions. So, next time you interact with your doctor or pharmacist, ask them if they think it is appropriate for you to take a daily low-dose aspirin.
- United States Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations on Aspirin Use to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease and Colorectal Cancer
- WebMD: Aspirin
- FDA: Safe Daily Use of Aspirin
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