There is a potent, proven medication for those at risk of heart disease and stroke. It is safe, inexpensive and easy to administer. Furthermore, you probably have a bottle of it in your medicine cabinet right now. It’s aspirin, and if you don’t already know about the beneficial effects of this drug for heart disease, it’s time to learn. If you’ve already suffered from heart disease or stroke, aspirin can prevent recurrences and reduce your chance of death. If you’ve already heard about aspirin’s heart healthy benefits, I’ll give you the specifics to help decide if you may be a candidate for this simple treatment.
How Aspirin Helps
Aspirin has been around for over 100 years. Early advertising campaigns from the 1920s reassured the public that aspirin would have no detrimental effect on the heart. After decades of medical advances and research, we now know that quite the opposite is true—aspirin helps the heart in various ways and carries the seal of approval from the American Heart Association. In fact, according to aspirin manufacturer Bayer®, the majority of the daily aspirin in the United States is taken to help prevent heart disease.
To clearly define the effects of aspirin on heart health, the FDA issued new guidelines in 1998. The guidelines state that aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke, as well as prevent a major stroke in patients who have suffered “mini strokes.”
It can reduce the risk of recurrent heart attack and prevent heart attack in people with angina, or chest pain. Aspirin can reduce the chance of death or complication from a heart attack when taken at the first onset of symptoms, usually within 30 minutes. It prevents new blockages in people who have had heart bypass surgery or procedures to clear blocked arteries.
The way aspirin works to prevent these serious conditions is by suppressing the body’s production of prostaglandins. These hormone-like substances can cause blood clots, which are responsible for attacks and stroke when they travel to the brain or heart and block blood vessels there. If you suffer from any of the conditions described above, ask your doctor about aspirin, so that he or she can verify the proper dosage and monitor your progress.
Should You Take Regular Aspirin?
A study in the British Medical Journal showed that over 40,000 deaths may be prevented worldwide each year if people who have heart disease, peripheral vascular disease or stroke took aspirin.
Data from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that coronary heart disease could be reduced by 28 percent in healthy people with regular aspirin use. Even with this encouraging statistic, not everyone should start taking aspirin. If you are middle aged and at moderate risk for heart disease, talk to your doctor. He or she can help assess your individual needs.
Regular aspirin use does carry risk factors. Because aspirin’s main benefit is associated with reducing blood clots, internal bleeding, particularly in the brain, is a possible risk factor. Gastrointestinal bleeding and other issues like stomach ulcers are a risk. Some people are allergic to aspirin, so see your doctor if you notice facial swelling or experience an asthma attack. People who should not take aspirin include heavy drinkers, pregnant women, those about to undergo surgery and anyone with ulcers or other bleeding problems.
Dose size is also an important consideration for doctors when prescribing daily aspirin. A recent analysis of studies on aspirin and heart disease showed that 81 milligrams of aspirin per day—the amount in one baby aspirin—is the most commonly prescribed dose by doctors in the U.S. It also showed that higher doses have not been proven to be any more effective. One adult-size aspirin tablet contains a whopping 325 mg! Taking the lowest recommended dose can reduce your risk of harmful side effects.
New studies on aspirin and its relationship to heart health are being conducted regularly. Treating heart disease under the direction of your doctor is important so you’ll be kept up-to-date with the latest research. In addition, your doctor’s expertise can help minimize any risk factors and maximize aspirin’s heart health benefits. Here’s to a healthy heart!
Photo Credit: renjith krishnan