Aspirin, one of the best-selling drugs in the world, is a topic of great importance. As a cardiologist, I prescribe aspirin almost every day in my practice. In this article, I will provide an in-depth understanding of how aspirin works, its benefits, risks, and dosages.
Arteries play a crucial role in our cardiovascular system, carrying blood to various organs in the body. However, fatty plaques called atherosclerosis can deposit in the arteries, posing a significant risk to our health. These plaques can rupture, leading to the formation of clots. When a clot forms in an artery, it obstructs the flow of blood to vital organs like the heart or brain. This can result in a cerebral or cardiac infarction, causing the cells in these organs to die rapidly.
Aspirin, fortunately, offers a solution to this problem. It can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. In fact, research suggests that aspirin may also lower the chances of certain types of cancer, as it can induce self-destructive behavior in cancer cells. However, it is crucial to use aspirin responsibly, as self-medication or improper administration can lead to severe bleeding.
Determining the appropriate dosage of aspirin depends on various factors, and it is necessary to consider these factors when prescribing it to patients. To make this decision, I evaluate the patient’s medical history and weigh the potential benefits against the risks. For patients who have already experienced a heart attack or ischemic event, have severe arterial issues, or other high-risk factors, the benefits of aspirin therapy outweigh the risks. Aspirin significantly reduces their chances of a future cardiovascular event.
However, for patients who have not experienced any previous cardiovascular events, the decision to prescribe aspirin becomes more challenging. The benefit of aspirin therapy in primary prevention, where there has been no prior major cardiovascular event, is lower, while the risk of bleeding remains constant. As a result, the decision must be made by evaluating each patient’s individual risk factors. Patients with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems may benefit from aspirin therapy, while those with a lower risk may not require it. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if aspirin is appropriate for you.
Research suggests that aspirin may also have a positive role in slowing down the growth and spread of certain cancers, particularly colon and rectal cancers. Some experts believe that aspirin can induce a process called apoptosis, causing cancer cells to commit suicide. Additionally, aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties may interfere with cancer growth processes. However, the evidence for these claims is inconclusive, and any potential benefits may only be evident after several years of regular aspirin use.
While aspirin is generally safe, the risk of bleeding does exist. Stomach ulcers and bleeding in the intestines are the most common sites of bleeding associated with aspirin use. Skin bleeding, bruising, or blemishes are less frequently associated with aspirin. To minimize the risk of bleeding, it is essential to follow a few guidelines. Firstly, it is crucial to avoid self-medication and only take aspirin under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Mixing medications without professional advice can increase the risk of bleeding. It is also important to disclose your medical history to your doctor, particularly if you have a history of bleeding from the stomach, intestines, or any other bleeding disorders. Lastly, doctors may also suggest the use of a gastric protector to reduce the stomach’s acidity, minimizing the potential damage from aspirin.
The recommended dosage of aspirin depends on the intended purpose. For preventing heart attacks, strokes, and deaths in patients who have already had a cardiovascular event, a daily dose of 100 milligrams is commonly prescribed. In high-risk patients, such as those with multiple risk factors, this dosage can be beneficial. However, in low-risk patients, the potential for bleeding without significant benefit increases. The dosage to prevent cancer development is still unknown, and further research is needed in this area. It is crucial to note that higher dosages of aspirin are used for other purposes, such as pain relief, with dosage reaching up to 8-10 grams per day. Nonetheless, it is important to take aspirin only as prescribed by a healthcare professional and avoid self-medication.
In conclusion, aspirin is an essential drug that has significant benefits in preventing cardiovascular events. However, its usage should be approached with caution, and it is important to consider individual risk factors and consult with a healthcare professional. Aspirin’s potential role in cancer prevention is still being studied, and its effects may only be evident after several years of continuous use. Lastly, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of bleeding and practice responsible usage, following the guidance of a medical professional.