Should You Take A Daily Aspirin Or Not?
It's starting to feel like there's new intel every day about who should—and who shouldn't—take aspirin for heart health. In the latest piece of news, a large study published online inHeart, Harvard researchers found that for women, age makes all the difference.
According to the results of the study, which included nearly 28,000 healthy women who took a low-dose (100 mg) aspirin or a placebo daily for 15 years, those under 65 who popped a daily aspirin lowered their risk of heart attack, stroke, and colon cancer—but they also raised their risk of major gastrointestinal bleeding, which ultimately countered the benefit.
The balance of pros and cons shifted for women over 65: Although their risk of GI bleeding rose with daily aspirin use, so did the level of protection against heart disease and colon cancer, tipping the scale toward an overall benefit.
That doesn't mean you should run out and buy baby aspirin, even if you're over 65. The American Cancer Society has advised against taking the drug to prevent cancer; the American Heart Association has recommended itonlyfor people at high risk of heart attack (for example, those with diabetes or high blood pressure); and the FDA recently warned against using it for preventing first-time heart attacks and strokes.
"What really matters is your age and any heart disease—whether you've had a heart attack or stroke," says cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of Women's Heart Health of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author ofDr. Suzanne Steinbaum's Heart Book: Every Woman's Guide to a Heart Healthy Life. "For women over 65, aspirin may be a great preventive strategy. If you’re under 65 and don’t have multiple risk factors—diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, family history—daily aspirin is not for you."
Consider that another new study, published in theJournal of the American College of Cardiology, found that more than 10% of patients treated with aspirin therapy to prevent cardiovascular disease were likely prescribed the pills inappropriately.
Ultimately, your best Rx will depend on a frank discussion of your personal risk factors with a doctor you trust.
Video: One-a-day: Low-dose aspirin
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