Aspirin: Quitting cold turkey could be dangerous

Studies have linked aspirin withdrawal to heart attacks.

Patients are sometimes told to stop taking aspirin before surgery and dental treatments because aspirin is believed to increase the risk for serious bleeding. But many doctors are now giving just the opposite advice, telling patients to stay on their aspirin. Research has shown that abruptly quitting aspirin after taking it regularly may increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. And for most operations there now seems little reason to worry about aspirin causing extra bleeding.

Doubly good

Aspirin protects against heart disease for two reasons. First, it makes platelets in the blood less "sticky," so blood clots are less likely to form. This is the flip side to the bleeding risk. Second, it's anti-inflammatory, so it may help cool off the processes that lead to atherosclerosis, plaque rupture, and blockage of arteries.

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