How to Take Aspirin Daily

Two Parts:Following a Prescribed Aspirin RegimenBalancing Risks and Rewards

Once advertised as the “wonder drug” for its pain-relieving effects, aspirin is now at just as well known as a daily treatment option to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Roughly forty percent of Americans over age fifty take a daily aspirin for this reason; however, about half of the people who would benefit from doing so don’t take it, while many others take aspirin when they shouldn’t.[1][2] Daily aspirin therapy can be a simple, cost-effective, successful method for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke (as well as possibly other conditions like some cancers), but it also comes with significant risks. Do not start or stop a daily aspirin therapy regimen without the advice and guidance of your physician; you must work together to weigh the risks and benefits.

Part 1
Following a Prescribed Aspirin Regimen

  1. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 1
    Consult with your doctor about aspirin therapy. Aspirin is such a familiar product that it may seem harmless to just take a “baby” (81 mg) tablet daily on your own; however, for all the good that little daily aspirin can potentially do, it can also cause serious, even possibly fatal, problems. Do not start taking a daily aspirin on your own. Always talk to your doctor first.[3]
    • Just because your sister or co-worker or second cousin takes a daily aspirin for heart protection purposes does not necessarily mean it is right for you. As with most every medical treatment, an individualized comparison of risks and benefits should take place. You need to work with your doctor to make this determination in regards to yourself.
    • Even if you just want to take aspirin occasionally for pain relief, it is a smart move to consult your doctor first.
  2. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 2
    Discuss all the medications and supplements you take. Aspirin thins the blood, which is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke; but this quality also makes it a potentially dangerous combination with other blood thinning-substances. Blood that will not coagulate (or clot) properly can lead to a host of dangerous internal and external bleeding problems.[4]
    • Taking another blood-thinning substance does not automatically mean you can’t or shouldn’t also take a daily aspirin; however, it is reason for more caution and close observation.
    • The following list of medications and supplements that can thin the blood is far from exhaustive; it is very important that you tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you take. Take particular care to mention items such as:
      • Other anticoagulant medications, like warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), apixaban (Eliquis), dabigatran (Pradaxa), or rivaroxaban (Xarelto).
      • Heparin; ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), when taken regularly; corticosteroids; clopidogrel (Plavix); certain antidepressants, including clomipramine, paroxetine, and others.
      • Bilberry; capsaicin; cat's claw; danshen; evening primrose oil; ginkgo; kava; ma-huang; omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil).
  3. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 3
    Follow dosing instructions carefully. If your doctor recommends an aspirin regimen, she should provide a specific dosing schedule and instructions. Use this information first, and the package instructions for the aspirin secondarily, to establish how and when to take your aspirin.[5]
    • The most common dosing for a daily aspirin regimen is one 81 mg tablet, sometimes still called a “baby aspirin;” however, your dosing could range from 75 mg to 325 mg (a regular strength tablet).
    • Unless otherwise instructed, take your dosage at about the same time each day, and take any missed doses as soon as possible (on the other hand, if it is close to the time of your next dose, skip the missed one — don’t “double up”). Don’t crush or chew coated tablets or caplets, and don’t swallow chewable tablets whole. Don’t take the aspirin with alcohol, and ask about instructions regarding taking it with or without food.
    • If you are on a daily aspirin regimen, never stop without telling your doctor first. Once you stop, a “rebound” effect can occur and actually increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.[6]
  4. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 4
    Recognize possible allergies and side effects. Most people can take a daily aspirin with no noticeable side effects; however, some people develop potentially serious allergic reactions, and some may experience significant — even life-threatening — side effects. Make sure you are familiar with common reactions to aspirin, and always contact your doctor if you suspect you are experiencing one or more of them.[7]
    • An aspirin allergy will typically present with familiar signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, breathing trouble, and/or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, etc. Seek medical assistance immediately.
    • You may experience a mild upset stomach or heartburn, or a mild headache or tiredness when taking aspirin. Stop taking the medication and call your doctor if you experience:
      • Ringing in your ears, confusion, hallucinations, rapid breathing, or seizure (convulsions).
      • Severe nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain.
      • Bloody or tarry stools, or coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
      • Fever lasting longer than three days, or swelling or pain lasting longer than 10 days.

Part 2
Balancing Risks and Rewards

  1. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 5
    Learn about how aspirin therapy works. Aspirin is an effective preventative measure against heart attack and stroke because of the impact it has upon the blood. When you hear that aspirin “thins the blood,” what that means is that it reduces the clumping action of platelets, which are the part of the blood that creates clots.[8]
    • Clots that form within arteries and blood vessels (especially those narrowed by plaque buildup) can cause heart attacks and strokes by blocking off blood flow to critical organs. A daily aspirin reduces the risk of such clots forming.
  2. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 6
    Identify the risks of aspirin therapy. Clotting within blood vessels can be very bad, but so too can the inability of your blood to coagulate properly when bleeding occurs (externally or internally). The increased risk of uncontrolled bleeding, especially internally, is the major risk factor of aspirin therapy for most people.[9]
    • If you have a clotting disorder due to heredity, illness, or another medication, the risks of taking aspirin will likely outweigh any possible rewards. For instance, if you experience occasional bleeding stomach ulcers, your doctor is unlikely to recommend daily aspirin.
    • Although some physicians and researchers believe that it would be beneficial overall if virtually every adult took a daily aspirin, current recommendations by major health and medical organizations accept that the bleeding risks are too great to recommend aspirin for those at low risk for heart attack or stroke.
  3. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 7
    Know your risk level for heart attack and stroke. In the end, the determination of whether you should be on a daily aspirin regimen usually boils down to comparing your risk for heart attack or stroke to your risk for serious internal bleeding. People tend to overvalue the former due to fear of a heart attack and underestimate the dangers of the latter. It is therefore essential that you work with your doctor to determine your personal risk assessment.
    • According to the most recent recommendations of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), all people ages 50–59 who have a ten percent or more increased likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years, and who do not have elevated risk factors for bleeding, should probably be on daily aspirin. Otherwise, the determination needs to be made according to individual risk levels.[10]
    • More generally speaking, if you are a man over age 45 or a woman over 55, have elevated heart attack or stroke risks, and don’t have elevated bleeding risks, aspirin may be right for you. If you are not at an elevated risk (less than ten percent above average) for a heart attack, lifestyle changes should probably be your first option.[11][12]
  4. Image titled Take Aspirin Daily Step 8
    Keep up with new developments. Recommendations regarding aspirin therapy change regularly, as new findings shift the overall risk-reward balance. Don’t stop or start an aspirin regimen because you hear about some new study on the news; always work with your doctor.
    • As one example of recent developments, there is increasing evidence that aspirin may help cut the risk of developing certain cancers, and may also help slow the spread of some existing cancers. The USPSTF factors this possible benefit (in regards to colon cancer in particular) into its recommendation about who should take daily aspirin, but the research is still too preliminary for general recommendations to be made regarding the use of aspirin to combat cancer.[13][14]

Article Info

Categories: Taking Pills and Medicine