Weigh Aspirin’s use in prevention

For Greene County News

DAYTON – Only those with diagnosed risk of disease and physician supervision should take it. Aspirin should not be seen as an easy, over-the-counter option for disease prevention for the general public despite research that links its use to lower cancer and cardiovascular incidences, a local cardiologist warns.

It has long been proven that a daily aspirin regime can be an effective tool for those who have had a stroke or heart attack, but are trying to avoid a second one. The question remains, however, if its use is safe and effective for those who have certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but have not yet developed it. A recent ruling by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says no, but it appears that the general public may not be listening.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that more than 10 percent of patients in the United States are receiving low-dose daily aspirin to prevent a first-time heart attack. That number is thought to be higher if it could account for the number of people taking aspirin on a daily basis without the supervision of a physician, the study says.

Aspirin has been called the “wonder drug” because of its ability to reduce aches and pains, fever and swelling, as well as lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the National Center for Health Research (NCHR). Aspirin prevents blood from clotting and therefore has become an inexpensive drug to prevent heart attacks and strokes in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, the accessibility of low-dose (or 81 mg) aspirin coupled with its advertised benefits to prevent disease has created a misconception that it’s good for anyone in the general public to use. Taking medicine to prevent the first occurrence of disease is known as primary prevention – something that shouldn’t always apply to aspirin, says Eddie Davenport, MD, a cardiologist with Miami Valley Cardiologists.

“Aspirin as an option for primary prevention of strokes and heart attacks is controversial because of the risks that are involved with taking it,” says Dr. Davenport, who practices with Premier Health Specialists. “One of the most severe effects of daily aspirin use is bleeding in the gastrointestinal area and the brain.”

Recommendations now focus on the use of aspirin solely for those who have cardiovascular disease. Long-term studies have shown the benefits outweigh the risks for those with a particular health history, according to the American Heart Association.

“We know that if you have had stent or bypass surgery, aspirin will definitely decrease your risk of dying up to 30 percent over a 10-year period,” he says.

Dr. Davenport says those who are wondering if a daily dose of aspirin is right for them should carefully consider the following points:

Focus on risk factors – There are certain risk factors that may make someone a good candidate for daily aspirin as a primary prevention. However, Dr. Davenport urges individuals to first look at ways to bring their risk factors under control.

“Have your blood pressure controlled, establish a good diet and begin exercising,” he says. “Do all the things that you need to reduce your risk for cardiovascular events so that you don’t need the aspirin.”

Know your history – Certain health conditions such as stomach ulcers make it dangerous for someone to regularly consume aspirin. Know what these health conditions include and then be honest enough to share your full medical history with your physician.

Involve your doctor – The bottle of aspirin may seem convenient enough to pick up at the drug store, but don’t make a purchase until you have consulted with your physician. Aspirin can be an effective tool to prevent and treat certain diseases, but only a trained physician who understands your medical history will know if it is right for you.

For more information on aspirin and heart health or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, visit www.premierhealthspecialists.org/heart.

Story courtesy of Premier Health Specialists.

Story courtesy of Premier Health Specialists.