Aspirin and Heart Attacks
The Risks and Benefits of Aspirin For Senior Heart Health
If you have heart problems, one of the simplest things you can do to decrease your risk of a heart attack is take a low dose of aspirin every day.
That’s long been a piece of advice floating around both the medical community and amongst more amateur health advocates. A 1989 Harvard study of men between the ages of 40 and 84 found that a daily dose of aspirin brought down the incidence of heart attack by 44%.
While not a comprehensive study (what does it mean for women, for instance?), the findings were significant enough to make aspirin a go-to recommendation for seniors at risk of heart disease.
But there’s a catch.
The miracle pill that can reduce your risk of a heart attack also increases your risk of bleeding in the gut. For much of the population, the benefits are believed to outweigh the risks. But for seniors, doctors aren’t so sure.
Seniors aren’t as likely to be included in health studies, so researchers can’t give a definitive answer on whether the benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks for people over the age of 65.
Recent studies have suggested the risks do outweigh the benefits for women under 65. The researchers in that study think that although the risks are still there for senior women, the benefits increase enough to make daily aspirin worth considering.
But for both women and men, whether or not daily aspirin therapy (as it’s often called) is the best choice or not should really be evaluated one on one with your doctor.
The Takeaways for Seniors
If you do have a heart attack, it’s smart to take aspirin as quickly as possible.
If you’ve had a heart attack already, it’s probably smart to do the daily aspirin thing (but don’t take my word for it, see what your doctor says).
If you don’t have any known heart problems and haven’t been told by a doctor to take aspirin every day, you probably shouldn’t start unless you talk to a doctor first.
If you do take aspirin each day, stick to a low dose to decrease possible risks. 81 mg should do it.
And of course, aspirin is one small part of the heart health equation. To really decrease your heart attack risk; avoid smoking and stress, exercise regularly, and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure down.
If you follow health news, you’re used to seeing these types of stories about health studies that contradict each other. They make a good reminder that health isn’t something that’s the same for everyone across the board. A complicated mix of genetics and personal health habits make your heart health something distinctly different from that of your neighbor.
American Heart Month is all about helping people better understand what we can do to improve our heart health. The answer’s often not simple, but it’s always better to be informed, even if you learn just enough to know what questions to ask your doctor on your next visit.