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An aspirin a day, or not? Understanding the risks & benefits



Sometime ago, I was invited by a bank to speak to its employees on how lifestyle changes could prevent the risk of developing heart diseases.

After the talk, a young man stood up and said that I forgot to mention that daily aspirin should also be used as preventive measure for heart diseases.

He also went on to say that his parents have been taking it and told all his siblings to also take an aspirin a day because it would prevent heart attacks.


This young man had a point! Yes, Daily Aspirin can be a lifesaving option for some people, while for others it can do more harm than good. It is important to get all the facts and talk to your doctor before starting a medication such as aspirin, and not just using it because everyone else is.

With an estimated 36,000 metric tonnes of tablets sold annually, Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world. Hence, this inexpensive, over-the-counter drug, is not only used for reducing pain, swelling, inflammation, flu, and fever.

Aspirin is also a popular therapy for patients suffering from arthritis, it’s also used as a blood thinner often given to patients immediately after a heart attack to prevent further clot formation and cardiac tissue death.

Further studies on the benefits of Aspirin use has shown that taking low-dose aspirin during high-risk pregnancies may help prevent premature labour. It may increase the chances of conception by 17% and chances of successful pregnancy by 20% especially for women who have previously miscarried.

In addition, recent research has shown that taking Aspirin can help reduce the risk of some cancers, most notably colon cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach, rectum, and prostate cancers.

Finally, Aspirin is also credited to help protect against development of Alzheimer’s disease. So, as we can see, Aspirin is nothing short-of-a miracle drug and it would be a no-brainer to take it every day because of its many uses. But stop right there!

Let’s take a look at the mechanism of action of aspirin and see how it works to prevent heart attacks. A heart attack is mostly caused by the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries – atherosclerosis causing stiffening and blocking of the arteries and bursting of the arteries. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound.

The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding. This plug can also interfere with blood from getting to the heart and hence causing heart attack. Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action and reduces the clumping action of platelets, possibly preventing a heart attack.

Current lifestyle behaviours and excesses increase a young person’s likelihood of having a heart attack, so it is important to know that aspirin reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while also increasing one’s chances of surviving a heart attack or stroke. 

However, it is still not advisable to be chewing on Aspirin tablets in the hopes of preventing a heart attack without a doctor’s supervision.

Taking the occasional Aspirin or two is safe to use for headaches or fever, but daily use of aspirin can have serious side effects, including internal bleeding, which is also a leading cause of death.
The disadvantages of taking aspirin are not easily seen as it occurs internally.

Mark Fendrick MD, a Professor of Internal Medicine at University of Michigan School of Medicine, exalts Aspirin as one the first drugs he will take on a desert island, but also exclaims that the side effects of over medicating on aspirin – gastrointestinal bleeding, is a leading cause of death each year, more than cervical cancer and asthma. 

When you frequently take aspirin, the level of stomach protection is decreased and you’re more likely to bleed, as well double the likelihood of having a perforated ulcer or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. 

A doctor recommends the daily aspirin therapy after getting a patient’s medical history and weighing the risks vs benefits, especially for patients who: have previously had a heart attack or stroke; have a high risk of having a first heart attack; have diabetes or a heart disease risk factor. 

Having a heart attack is a major ailment to treat; therefore most people would probably disregard the advice of their doctors because the benefits of this drug are quite impressive.

Most people have been told to ‘just take an aspirin a day’ to prevent heart attack, and such people tend to over use and abuse the medication without doctor’s supervision. 

As beneficial as Aspirin is, the side effects that are quite harmful, especially when overlooked, and can equally cause death. Check with your doctor before starting daily aspirin therapy.

Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment


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