One of the world’s most utilized pills — used by over 29 million people, with about 7 million of them using it without physician supervision — has some negative side effects that outweigh its benefits. Aspirin is a medication that many Americans take on a daily basis, using it to treat a wide range of symptoms, from ever and pain, to preventing heart attacks and blood clots.
Studies have highlighted some of the risks of regularly taking it, particularly when the person consuming it is over the age of 60 and has never experienced a heart attack or a stroke.
Dr. Michael Daignault wrote about this phenomenon in USA Today, breaking down why aspirin can be considered a risk for a significant number of people. Aspirin’s strength in preventing heart attacks and heart disease lies in its ability to suppress the normal functioning of platelets, which normally travel to damaged blood vessels and mend them by clumping together. When this process is abnormal, there are higher odds of having heart attacks and strokes.
A side effect of aspirin’s strengths is the fact that it ends up thinning the blood, creating some trouble for people who are dealing with other conditions. “In the emergency room, we do not recommend aspirin and other NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen for patients with peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, hemophilia, kidney disease, and other conditions because aspirin is known to increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding,” writes Dr. Daignault.
Daignault isn’t the only physician concerned with the high number of people taking aspirin on a regular basis; this year, the United States Preventing Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated their guidelinesupdated their guidelines, advising that adults over the age of 60 with no heart attack or stroke history shouldn’t take the pill as a preventative measure.
In short, aspirin is a great tool and a cheap method of protecting one’s heart health. Still, there are guidelines for its usage, and it should be consumed primarily by people who’ve had a history of heart attacks and strokes, or those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease and are being advised by their physician. For those who don’t fall under that spectrum, regular exercise, stress management, and healthy sleep are all proven ways of cutting down the risk of heart disease and managing heart health.