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Harvard Health Blog
Is aspirin a wonder drug?
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
How about people with G6PD Deficiencies? I was told not to take aspirin but that was over 30 years ago and recommendations can change as history has shown us with other medicines. All I currently take is Synthroid 100mcg and aside from that I’m a healthy 55 year old.
I used to take aspirin on a daily basis because I’d get headaches. I generally would take 2 aspirins a day. Every doctor indicated it was fine. The problem was, over a period of a number of years, I developed kidney disease. I now have Stage 3 Kidney Disease. There are only 5 Stages. Aspirin is NOT a wonder drug. You have to be careful. I did not take more than 1000mg daily; most days, it was 500mg. As most people know, a 500mg tablet does not contain 500mg of aspirin. My suggestion is to be careful. Listen to your body and not doctors. DO NOT TAKE ANY MEDICINE. JUST EAT PROPERLY!!!
What about Asprin induced asthma? My dad is 88. After taking Asprin for a year, he started to develop wheezing. He is prescribed Asprin just because Canadian doctors prescribe it to every senior. However, my dad goes swimming every day, and eats 8 servings of fruit and veggie each day. He has perfect blood pressure at 120/70. When I heard recently that Asprin could induce asthma and talked to his doctor, she said he could stop. He doesn’t stop, however, because my sister insists that stopping will incur more risks. Should doctors evaluate each patient individually before they prescribe a drug like candy? Every drug has side effect. A healthy life style is the best in prevention.
Grace- Canadian Doctors do not give out Asprin to every senior! They follow the same practices that you do in the US.
You can buy 75mg aspirin in the UK which is specially coated to obviate gastric bleeding – does this not meet the objections from the anti-aspirin brigade? I am not a doctor by the way (well not of medicine!)
from Dr G
Coated Asprin is available in the US. It only helps, but not in all cases.
This well-intentioned article highlights the hazards of writing about complex medical issues for the general public. Reviewing the comments, surely from lay folks, I am reminded of this truism once again. As a Cardiologist, I have read countless articles and studies pertaining to Aspirin. It is hard to synthesize, digest and then even harder to know what advice to dispense to any one specific individual.
This particular topic could perhaps have been addressed as follows: “Aspirin is a powerful and remarkably inexpensive medication. Discuss with your own physician, whether it is right for you”. As with all drugs, the risk-benefit ratio needs careful consideration by doctor and patient. Even with the best of intentions and carefully thought through discussion, there is a potential down-side. There is obviously also a very real benefit. It is very simply – NOT SIMPLE!!! Like most things medical.
The problem here is to equally trained physicians may have different views of the same fact set. Seems more than lay folk are confused.Perhaps such caution should be exercised on any number of prescription drugs and the medical profession should demand neutral experts not conflicted by ;financial conflicts ; making recommendations.
Will taking aspirin every day over long periods of time reduce its effectiveness/benefits ? And so it is recommended to stop taking for some period of time and restart after a break. I thought I read this somewhere. Has anyone heard this anywhere ?
what about fatty liver heard not good!!
I think the highly publicized warnings about children taking aspirin for fear of Rhymes disease did more than anything else to switch people to Tylenol for the rest of their lives. Indeed, fortunes have been made by many companies who produce substitutes for commonly used and trusted food and diet standards of days past.
A perfect example of this the dairy processing industry, which has been selling fat free milk at basically the same price as whole milk, in spite of the fact that their cost paid to dairy farmers is based directly on the weight of the milk fat delivered in the raw product. Only lately have a few stores like Walmart started selling skim milk at a price somewhat relative to their cost.
I guess you mean Reye’s syndrome?!
That was a really scary illness with death or mental deficit complications, that we witnessed as pediatricians, and which indeed almost disappeared with shift to use of paracetamol. Of course this syndrome has its definition, most particularly in presence of a varicella or influenza infection. and overuse of aspirin, especially in children.
Dr Hana Fayyad, pediatrician ( Maria Jasmine Freeman, published author).
I can remember my grandmother who lived in the 1960s with arthritis when there were no other drugs available for. She took 3-5 regular sized, non coated aspirins daily, and somehow survived the ear ringing and other side effects in order to eliminate her joint pain. I am wondering if anyone still takes this high quantity of aspirin now, or has this practice been discarded.
By the way, my grandmother lived into her 80s, had no heart disease, and apparently no internal bleeding from high dosage aspirin.
Every anti inflammatory after Aspirin come with a bag of side effects.
Unfortunately Aspirin a has been sidelined in arthritis and it should be brought back.
I take a headache poweder which is a misture of aspirin and paracetamol, and this has no effect on me, except that it takes my “everyday” headache away! I hope that I also have other health benefits from the aspirin intake which is 500mgs daily.
growing up in 60 people I seen them take half bottle dose for pain no wonder they had stomach trouble!
People who are G6PD deficient should avoid taking aspirin. It appears that not many are aware of this medical condition.
This article is miss leading. For 100 years Aspirin was prescribed just about for everything, even for stomach pain. Doses used to be 300-400 mg and the damaged to stomach was killing people. Even 85 mg is making holes in stomach.
My dad had taken aspirin for the last 20 years. He had stomach cancer and passed away last year. There is always a risk to take any medicine. Be very careful to weigh the benefit and risk.
It is interesting to listen that aspirin is a wonderful drug, but how it
work? It is know that aspirin reduce the concentration of blood,
so in that way it can run more fast and travel the same distance more frequently in the unit of time, as the blood is life and also provide protection to the affected area, that is the way how aspirin work in some cases.
I wander if ACV or cayenne would have the same benefits.
There is a good chance with Cayenne.
Would you know of any research?
If you read the study, you will see that it’s not convincing. Simulation models have too many limitations.
for 4 mo.s more life?????????????
I’ve been told that because I take Warfarin that I should not take aspirin–I used to.
I’ve been taking BOTH 85mg Asprin and Warfarin at same time ea Eve for 10 years ! Should I take the Warfarin in morning instead?
My doctor has prescribe for my heart tricardin caps lowplat concour sustac. Since long I take asprinC effervacent twice daily. The day doctor has added tricardin I feel no heart problem. I am 76 now. Any comments will be helpful.
The stats stated are truly abysmal, aspirin it would seem is nearly useless in the stated regards
prevent 11 cases of heart disease for every 1,000 persons
prevent four cases of cancer for every 1,000 persons
lengthen national life expectancy by about four months, allowing an extra 900,000 people to be alive in 2036
Aspirin would be fine for me—except I am allergic to sodium lauryl
sulate, phenolglycol, aluminium sulfate and talc. Is this product
available without these compunding items?
is not aspirin contraindicated for folks who have a history or the possibility of having a stomach ulcer?
Here’s another health benefit, albeit minor compared to a heart attack: Whenever I have a scratchy throat or otherwise feel a cold coming on, I immediately take 2 aspirin. Then another 2 pills in 4 hours. That almost always knocks out the cold. The last cold I had was 4 years ago. Admittedly, I did the aspirin thing then as well, but the virus was evidently stronger than the pill. Not much to lose by giving it a shot….next time your throat gets scratchy and you feel a cold coming on.
My father, who was a salesman and hence exposed to a lot of colds on his rounds, swore by the same regimen you describe , and he rarely got sick. He gargled with Listerine, took 2 aspirin and said nearly always he was cured.
I have started to do the same when I feel a cold coming on. Best advice ever.
I endorse this article. Taken for years now. Only side effect I have is bruising easily.
I take Lotrel for high BP, but the two do not seem unhappy in my system.
Hi, I know all so well, why a aspirin a day will and can save your life. Have block arteries with blood flow, has given me two “TIA”. I know the arteries can become unblocked with hard work or treatment, so that living a normal life again. I take a 325mg aspirin first thing in the morning with breakfast, to prevent any stomach issues has been very successful for me. I will continue taking until my arteries are clean and will continuing to take a aspirin for the rest of my life until my doctor tell me otherwise.
My cardiologist advised approx. eight years ago not to take aspirin as he said females were more prone to bleeding than males. Has the latest research changed this advice?
There was an article a couple of yrs ago in the NY Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/opinion/a-cancer-treatment-in-your-medicine-cabinet.html) by researchers who are fighting a battle to research aspirin as a breast cancer treatment.
They said explicitly that they cannot get money because big pharma cannot make money on something so obviously beyond a patent. Their early findings are about 50% reduction in breast can recurrence – about the same as Tamoxifen and the ‘newer, bigger, better’ (aka money maker), arimidex – both of which have many side effects – some serious.
Someone fund these aspirin studies and help save lives!
Well I’ve had two posterior vitreous detachment rihat and left eye and no retina tear nor retina detachment. During even Bp not controlled well. Since the events BP well controlled. Prior to events took 84 mg aspirin, 200 cut E. I now on my own take one half of 84 mg aspirin and no Vit. E, added lutein, bilberry and cooper. Do you think combo habits contributed to PVD and is going half on 84 mg. Good choice or 42mg.
I have NASH (liver disease) and my doctor asked me to stop taking aspirin. It’s so easy to get confused with all the well-intentioned but conflicting advice from the medical profession. I truly am confused.
ASPERINE CAUSES TINNITUS
I have heard this before. Can you cite any studies backing this claim?
Interesting! For a low resource setting like ours in Africa, this indeed is a big reminder to avail ourselves of the “available” rather than crave for the “desirables” that have remained inaccessible due to funds.
The unavailability of high tech cardiovascular procedures in our community make regular aspirin use even more attractive, with the hope that lesser patients would need them afterall…because for us really, it’s about primary prevention.
Why are doctors not aware of this medicinal properties of asprin?
nope. not me. I’m afraid of taking any meds, including aspirin. I’ve read conflicting accounts about women taking even baby aspirin for TIA .
With TIA, stroke and heart attacks, your goal is to thin the blood, right? That’s why doctor’s prescribe baby aspirin. Thing is, once you start on baby asprin, you can’t get off without getting yourself into trouble. There are spices such as turmeric, ginger, cayenne peppers cherry, and cinnamon that people can use every day without risking side effects.
Also, when you take aspirin,, it can cause trouble if you eat other foods that also are blood thinning.
Several years ago I had two TIAs that each took me to the ER. Each time, they gave me one (1) 350mg aspirin and the symptoms were relieved. All the rest was details, complicated and expensive to no further benefit.
Now, on advice of my GP and neurologist, and instead of Plavix, I take an 81mg every day, and another at night. No further TIAs. I now also have an emergency aspirin holder on each of my key chains.
Not a religious person, but if I were looking for proof of divine intervention it would be aspirin.
I have Barrett’s Esophagus and chronic gastritis. Would not aspirin be more harmful than helpful? 83 years old but have had no strokes or heart attack.
I was taking Plavix ( expensive). to prevent more T.I.A.’s but bleeding too much so Hematologist suggested one baby aspirin, 81 mg. every evening & said ” “it is just as effective & cost a lot less!” I am sold on daily low- dose aspirin! Not kept in refrigerator either…
According to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1922220, “CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that 30 mg of aspirin daily is no less effective in the prevention of vascular events than a 283-mg dose in patients with a transient ischemic attack or minor stroke, and has fewer adverse effects.”
There is no 30mg Aspirin in the U.S., and 283mg causes bleeding on me. So, I had to create my own solution: dissolve a 325mg Alka-Seltzer in 11 oz water, then take 1 oz of that compound each day.
Can one take daily low dose aspirin while taking fish oil supplements? It is my understanding that they both thin the blood.
Weird that a vast number of people take at considerable expense vitamins and patent medicines that have not been shown to provide any significant benefit while they balk at taking low dose aspirin. Maybe some entrepreneur will add low dose aspirin to a “heart healthy” pill package that includes a pointless dose of vitamins, and thereby provide some actual health benefit.
What about for those under 50? I’m 52, and have been taking a low-dose aspirin for years.
I’m highly confused about the significance of this. This study uses simulation models, not typical designed experiments, and the simulations make many, many assumptions that are difficult to follow, let alone critique. And the result? It takes 20 years, twenty years!, to effect a one percent reduction in “heart disease”. Weather forecasting uses complex modeling, and would anyone be comfortable depending on that modeling being accurate to one percent? What about mortality from heart disease, and what are the error bars associated with this claim? What about overall mortality, not just from heart disease? And what about effects of stratification? Which sub-groups benefitted and which did not? Even at age 70, the idea of taking something every day for twenty years just to see “a few months” statistically added to my lifetime, is not appealing.
Read the study. See if you can understand what was done.
It’s true that aspirin has among the drug but there is other medicine has drug so people must be carefully.
All true and all known for a long time. There is a fascinating book about the history of aspirin, originally published by the Harvard Business Press. More exciting than a Ludlum, and infinitely more informative.
The Aspirin Wars: Money, Medicine, and 100 Years of Rampant Com- petition, by Charles C. Mann and Mark Plummer. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (201 E. 50th St., New York, N.Y. 10022) (1991). 420 pages.
It would be helpful if so many internists did not get apoplectic whenever their patients ask about aspirin. Acetaminophen has been grossly oversold to the medical profession as a safer alternative to aspirin in virtually all cases (heart disease aside). It may be safer for the young, and for certain patients with bleeding ulcers and other hemorrhagic disorders, but for most mature patients, it does not confer all the benefits, and has its own risks (to the liver) which aspirin does not. In my personal experience, aspirin is more effective as an anti-pyrolitic, works better with most headaches, and, while not as effective as the NSAIDs, is more helpful with most joint aches and pains than acetaminophen.
Very Much Appreciate the comments of Andrew M. Clearfield, PhD!
I use aspirin as a blood thinner because I did not want to continue on Warfarin. I had to change my cardiologist and the current one thinks I need Plavex or Xralto. Why? He never gives me a definitive reason..
He just can’t seem to accept the fact that low cost, old fashioned aspirin could be just as helpful as the fancy, expensive prescriptions
I agree. Doctors push acetominopfen, and always emphasize the stomach problems of aspirin. But it seems taking an aspirin or two a day as I do should not be a problem. The upper limit of 12 pills over 24 hours could cause a problem but I never have seen a comparison of the amount of aspirin you take vs. stomach problems. I also experience must more relief with aspirin than acetominophen and feel is is safer than ibuprofen.
My Virginia Mason, Seattle, internist says full aspirin, 325, not lo-dose.
My Irish grandmother said to me, over my taking a baby aspirin, “I want you to take one of these every day.” That was 1952. I was beginning my 6th. year. I didn’t follow her advice, with some exception, I might over the span of a decade or two be given to over several months.
Soon to begin my 71st year I am having to remind myself to chew a baby aspirin every day.
Isn’t aspirin bad if you have kidney disease?
Another factor limiting aspirin use may be that it is generic and cheap and therefore pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to promote its benefits.
Thanks for a great article, it reminded my husband to get back to taking it every day!
To my friends and strangers –I always recommend on box of aspirin to be kept in fridge and when travelling on holidays– Bayer Aspirin A Life saver.
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