Q: Is taking a daily low-dose aspirin good for my heart?
A. If you're thinking about taking a daily low-dose aspirin, don't start without first talking with your primary care provider.
Low-dose aspirin can be beneficial for some people who have had heart problems. However, if you're healthy and not prone to heart health problems, I would advise against starting the regimen.
If you've had a heart attack, aspirin works to inhibit the clotting effect of the blood's platelets - the cells that make your blood sticky. Taking aspirin helps your blood flow more freely, and it helps prevent the platelets from sticking to each other and from forming clots in your arteries.
Despite the benefits of taking a daily low-dose aspirin, there is a tradeoff. Aspirin can irritate to your stomach, causing ulcers in extreme cases. If you have internal bleeding and are on an aspirin regimen, it may be more difficult to stop the bleeding.
The potential benefits of taking low-dose aspirin need to outweigh the potential harm caused by gastrointestinal bleeding. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force agrees. Aspirin is recommended for men age 45 to 79 and women age 55 to 79, when appropriate.
Check with your primary care provider or cardiologist before starting a low-dose aspirin regimen. While aspirin is sold as an over-the-counter medicine, it is still a drug with potential serious side effects and needs to be used appropriately.
Juan Mesa, M.D.
Sees patients at Marshfield Clinic Marshfield Center & Rhinelander Center