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Aspirin is an amazing drug. You can take it for headaches, muscle aches, fever and even prevent a heart attack or stroke. There are not too many drugs with the versatility of aspirin. And best of all, it is inexpensive. Sound like the perfect drug? It is almost the perfect drug, with one exception. The qualities that make it an amazing drug are the same that can cause problems.
It is the blood thinner properties which make aspirin the go-to drug after a heart attack, a stroke (the kind caused by a clot), stent placement, and sometimes in atrial fibrillation. But those blood thinner effects have a downside: bleeding in the stomach, or GI bleed as we in health care call it. A GI bleed can be serious enough to require a blood transfusion and hospitalization. When it comes to whether or not you should take aspirin, the downside must be taken into consideration.
Lately, aspirin recommendations have changed because of research that showed some people are at higher risk of bleeding than they are of gaining any benefit from aspirin. Aspirin has been taken for prevention of heart attacks and strokes based on its effectiveness in those who previously had a heart attack or stroke. The research shows that aspirin does not benefit those who never had one of those events.
It gets a little more complicated. Adult diabetics over 50 years of age have been told to take aspirin but that is being questioned as well. Many people take drugs like Ibuprofen, which, along with aspirin, increases the risk of bleeding. Drinking alcohol and taking aspirin can damage the lining of the stomach and cause bleeding. There are some supplements that interfere with blood clotting and also increase the risk of bleeding when taken with aspirin. Ginkgo is probably the best example.
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The bottom line is this: Do not start or stop aspirin without first talking with your health care provider. That person takes all the factors into consideration and makes a decision based on what is best for you. By all means, do not stop aspirin if a cardiologist told you to take it. The recommendations have not changed for you if you have had a heart attack or stroke. If you take any supplements, let all of your health care providers know.
Aspirin is a great drug. But it is not without its problems. Aspirin has been taken for granted because it is cheap, seems innocent, and can be obtained without a prescription. Over the years people have made a decision on their own to take aspirin based on what they have seen others do, especially heart attack victims. As you can see, the decision should take into account many factors. Talk it over with a professional.