Good Health Blog

An aspirin or an apple a day?

- September 10, 2014

Those patients most in need of daily aspirin therapy are easy to identify. If you have a documented personal or family history of heart disease — including heart attacks, stokes, or angina; if you have diabetes; or if you have multiple risks for the development of heart disease such as havehigh blood pressure, high cholesterol, or are a smoker, you should most likely take a daily dose of aspirin (but always consult with your physician first). Although the optimal dose of aspirin in prevention of future heart disease is still unclear, doses of 75 milligrams, 100 milligrams, or 325 milligrams have been found to be equally effective.

Because the risk of bleeding with aspirin use is thought to be outweighed by its anti-clotting benefits for those who’ve already suffered a heart attack or (non-hemorrhagic) stroke, many people believe it must be so for people who haven’t suffered such an event. Current studies are still in debate over this and what is a good trade-off in risk vs benefit.

Side effects and complications of taking aspirin include:

Stroke caused by a burst blood vessel. While daily aspirin can help prevent a clot-related stroke, it may increase your risk of a bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke).
Gastrointestinal bleeding. Daily aspirin use increases your risk of developing a stomach ulcer. And, if you have a bleeding ulcer or bleeding anywhere else in your gastrointestinal tract, taking aspirin will cause it to bleed more, perhaps to a life-threatening extent.

Allergic reaction. If you’re allergic to aspirin, taking any amount of aspirin can trigger a serious allergic reaction.

Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss. Too much aspirin (overdosing) can cause tinnitus and eventual hearing loss in some people.

If you’re taking aspirin and need a surgical procedure or dental work, be sure to tell the surgeon or dentist that you take daily aspirin and how much. Otherwise you risk excessive bleeding during surgery.

The take home message from this is that the decision to take an aspirin a day should only be made after discussion with your Doctor. Just because it is available over the counter (like an apple) does not mean it is without risk.