For pennies a day, aspirin saves many lives from stroke and heart disease. Having said that . . . an aspirin a day carries risks, so not everyone should be taking it. Remember, the benefits of a low dose aspirin a day outweigh the risks only in some people. This is not a grey area, but an area that has been well-studied so know these things:
- Men age 45 to 79 years with two or more cardiac risk factors should consider a low dose aspirin (81 mg or 100 mg) a day.
- Cardiac risk factors include high blood pressure, family history (a sibling or parent in their 40’s or 50’s with heart disease), smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Women age 55 to 79 with two or more cardiac risk factors should consider taking a daily low-dose aspirin.
- The use of daily aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention in men and women 80 years or older is hotly debated as the risks may outweigh the benefits.
- Aspirin is not recommended in women younger than 55 years and in men younger than 45 years who are healthy without risk factors for heart disease.
- Using aspirin for prevention of cardiovascular disease in healthy people increases the risk of major bleeding events including gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic (bleeding into the brain) strokes. Stomach ulcers, blood in the urine, easy bruising, and nosebleeds are much more common in folks taking an aspirin a day.
- The American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association recommend aspirin therapy (75 mg to 162 mg per day) for any diabetic older than 40 years.
- Before you run away from aspirin remember that the median age of a first heart attack in men is 65.8 years and 70.4 years in women. So as mentioned above, for those with risk factors for heart disease an aspirin a day can help lower that risk.