If you’ve been with me for a while, you probably know that I don’t recommend taking a daily aspirin for primary heart attack prevention (to prevent a first heart attack) or for those with no history of cardiovascular disease. New research just released, however, shows that regular aspirin use may help prevent cancer. Specifically, three studies recently published in The Lancet conclude that those in middle age can cut their risk of developing several types of cancer by taking a daily dose of aspirin.
Do these new findings change my mind about taking aspirin for heart attack prevention? No they don’t, and here’s why.
Daily Aspirin Increases Bleeding Events
A meta-analysis of nine placebo-controlled trials challenges that practice. The Archives of Internal Medicine published data collected from 100,000 people over six years showing that we have to treat 120 people with a daily aspirin to prevent just one nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI).
The researchers did report that total cardiovascular events decreased by 10 percent. But at the same time there was a 30 percent increased risk for “trivial bleeding events.” Because it took treating just 73 people to trigger that bleeding event, we must think twice about our overzealous use of aspirin.
So, What's The Bottom Line on Daily Aspirin?
I still don’t recommend an aspirin for primary heart attack prevention. While a daily aspirin prevents clot formation (the final step that triggers a heart attack), it doesn’t change atherosclerotic plaque, which is the underlying cause of heart disease. A far better way to prevent a heart attack is by keeping plaque from forming and building up in the first place. That means back to basics: a healthy diet, exercise, weight reduction, nutritional support with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, blood pressure lowering, stress reduction, and so on.
But taking a daily aspirin for secondary heart attack prevention—if you’ve already had a heart attack or have a history of cardiovascular disease—is just plain good medicine. I regularly advocate aspirin for those who have known heart disease, such as a history of angina, heart attack, angioplasty or stent procedures, or coronary artery bypass surgery. In these cases, I recommend taking one baby aspirin daily.
Yet, even if you have all the characteristics I just mentioned that would make you a perfect candidate for a daily preventative aspirin regimen, it won’t do you a lick of good if you’re part of the population known as "aspirin resistant." Fortunately, there’s a test to determine if an aspirin a day will work for you.
Now it’s your turn: What do you think about taking aspirin daily?
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