Ted is the Communications Director for the Heart Disease and Stroke Program
Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I’m aware of many things that affect my health. I know I should be active, I know I should eat right, and I know I shouldn’t smoke. But one thing my friends and I have been hesitant to do is to start taking an aspirin every day. Does it work? Is it right for me? There seems to be a lot of differing opinions on whether or not aspirin can give extra health benefits. So, I dug around a bit for more information, and found the only hard and fast rule on taking a daily aspirin is this: Consult your doctor or healthcare provider first.
So, why the hubbub about aspirin? It’s known to many that aspirin can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Aspirin can also help maintain normal circulation when arteries stop working as well as they should.
However, you may have recently heard about a possible link between aspirin and a lower risk of the development or spread of cancer. In March, www.lancet.com published studies that add to the growing evidence that a daily aspirin can help prevent and possibly treat cancer.
This data support previous studies showing aspirin may help stop the spread of some cancers, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and other gastrointestinal cancers. Results from other studies have suggested aspirin may also benefit pregnant women, and patients with diabetes or dementia.
So, if aspirin’s so great, shouldn’t everyone take it? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a wonder drug. In some people, aspirin may cause side effects, or interact with other medications or herbal supplements. Always tell your doctor or healthcare provider about any medicines or supplements you might be taking.
There are, of course, other ways to lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Although the risk of these diseases is sometimes affected by family history, we can influence many other factors, including preventing or controlling high cholesterol and blood pressure; choosing foods with less salt; avoiding tobacco and secondhand smoke; and choosing to move more and eat healthy.