GHS Cares: What Baby Aspirin Can Do For You
February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. More than half of deaths are caused by heart disease, including heart attacks. With that being said, there is no better time to talk about one of our favorite health prevention topics-- baby aspirin!
Not only is baby aspirin one of the most cost-effective way to save lives, it is also one of the oldest medicines. Aspirin, which is derived from willow and other salicylate-rich plants, has been used medically for many centuries. How amazing that it still is so useful today! In fact, you may already be one of millions of Americans who take a baby aspirin every day. Today, we want to discuss how baby aspirin works and who might benefit from taking it.
Fact #1 This low-dose aspirin 81 mg per tablet was named “Baby Aspirin” because it was originally manufactured for babies.
It is no longer recommended to give aspirin to any child or baby. It was discovered in the 1960s that aspirin in children less than 18 years old can cause serious side effects with certain illnesses. The only exception for children is when it is prescribed by a doctor for specific types of inflammatory diseases. Currently, baby aspirin is primarily recommended for adults who are at risk for heart disease.
Fact #2 Low-dose aspirin works by blocking platelets.
Platelets, which are shaped like tiny dinner plates, are small parts of your blood. When there is any damage to a blood vessel wall, these little plate-shaped disks stick to the walls of blood vessels and stack on top of each other, forming clots. If suffering an injury, this process is extremely helpful for stopping blood loss. However, when blood vessel walls have inflammation from smoking, unhealthy diets, blood sugar, high blood pressure or age-related damage, sticky platelets on the walls can lead to clots that stop blood flow to important organs like the heart or brain.
Fact #3 Aspirin can cause a higher risk of bleeding.
Since aspirin works by making it more difficult for the blood to clot, aspirin does put people at higher risk of bleeding. The most common type of bleeding caused by aspirin is internal bleeding in the digestive system, which causes dark “tarry” stools. When aspirin is used in people who have a risk of bleeding or who do not have a risk for heart attacks, it causes more harm than good. People are at risk for bleeding when they have surgery, when they have a history of bleeding problems, or if they are taking other medications that can cause bleeding like Ibuprofen or BC Powder (BC powder has 845mg of aspirin per dose). Therefore, it is important to check with your doctor and review all the medicines you take before starting low-dose aspirin.
Fact #4 Low-dose aspirin is typically recommended for people that have a history of a heart attack or ischemic stroke (ischemic is the type of stroke caused by a clot).
For those with a history of heart attack or serious blood clot, low-dose daily aspirin is helpful for preventing another heart attack or a blood clot. Adults ages 50 to 69 who have a high 10-year cardiac risk should consider taking a baby aspirin daily. Cardiac risk is calculated using the American Heart Association’s risk calculator, and it is based on risk factors like diabetes, smoking, blood pressure levels and cholesterol. Your doctor can help you calculate your 10-year risk and determine whether aspirin is recommended for you.
Fact #5 Aspirin may also help prevent colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the digestive track. While still being researched, it seems that there may be a benefit of low-dose aspirin for preventing this type of cancer, as well as heart attacks and blood clots. If you have a high risk of colorectal cancer in your family, low-dose daily aspirin may also be recommended for you.
Aspirin is cheap, widely available and easy to take. At Granville Primary Care, we always enjoy discussing whether aspirin may be recommended-- and for many of our patients, daily aspirin is an excellent way to prevent heart attacks and help our patients stay healthy.
Dr. Liz Baltaro and Dr. Amy Nayo are primary care physicians expanding community access to quality pediatric and family medicine at Granville Primary Care, Butner-Creedmoor, located at 1614 NC Highway 56, Butner. To schedule your primary care appointment, please call 919-575-6103 or schedule online at ghshospital.org. You can schedule a primary care appointment with a provider as far as 12 months in advance through online scheduling.