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Published on May 01, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Aspirin Therapy

May 1, 2015

woman holding aspirinMany people take a daily dose of aspirin to lower their risk of having a heart attack. While this practice can be beneficial for some, it isn't right for everyone.

“Aspirin therapy may help prevent cardiovascular events, but it can also cause serious internal bleeding in the stomach or the brain,” says clinical pharmacist Elizabeth Jochum, PharmD, with KishHealth System. “As people age, the risk of bleeding increases, especially after age 65. So it’s important to talk with your doctor during each checkup about whether the risks of aspirin therapy outweigh the benefits for you.”

Age isn’t the only factor to consider. People with a history of ulcers or those taking high doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, or anticoagulants to prevent blood clots are also at a higher risk for internal bleeding. And don’t be fooled by claims that coated aspirin is safer—it, too, can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.

What’s the Use?

Despite the increased risk of bleeding, a controlled aspirin therapy monitored by your physician can be very beneficial for cardiovascular health under the right circumstances. By taking factors such as age, blood pressure, cholesterol, gender, and tobacco use into account, physicians can determine the value of a daily aspirin regimen.

“Physicians will look at the risk percentage to decide if potential harm from aspirin outweighs the potential benefit in preventing a heart attack,” Jochum says. “Each case is individual, so talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.”

Over-the-Counter Comparison

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can be divided into two categories: acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Both options can offer effective pain relief, but some people should stay away from certain categories.

Do not take acetaminophen if you:

  • Drink three or more alcoholic beverages daily
  • Have liver disease

Do not take NSAIDs if you: 

  • Drink three or more alcoholic beverages daily
  • Have kidney, liver, or heart disease
  • Have a history of intestinal bleeding
  • Take blood-thinning medication
  • Are pregnant

Looking for a cardiologist? Visit kishfindadoctor.org.

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