Weighing the risks and benefits of aspirin therapy

It may help prevent a heart attack or stroke, but it comes with the risk of bleeding.


Image: © Garsya/Thinkstock

Maybe you've heard about people who take a low-dose aspirin each day to ward off heart problems. Since aspirin is a medicine you've probably used now and then without a problem, and since it is available without a prescription, you might consider trying a daily low-dose aspirin yourself. Don't do it. Unlike deciding to take a multivitamin, taking a daily aspirin isn't something you should decide to do on your own.

Aspirin therapy is typically prescribed to people who have atherosclerosis of the arteries of the heart or brain, or risk factors for such disease. Just who should take a daily aspirin, how much aspirin, and what type of aspirin are hotly debated issues, with clinical trials under way in search of answers. "Until those results are in, you should talk to your doctor before starting aspirin," says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist and the editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter.

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