About a third of the adult population of the United States -- that's about 50 million of us -- takes an aspirin a day to help prevent heart attacks, according to a health story on CNN today. And for most of us, that's no problem.
In fact, aspirin taken at the beginning of a heart attack -- chewed quickly in the mouth -- is often credited with helping safe a life, because of its anti-clotting properties.
But does your doctor know that you take an aspirin a day? Or is it such a small thing that you forget it when they ask you what medicines you take regularly?
Here's an excerpt from the CNN.com story:
"...A daily aspirin regimen isn't healthy for everyone, and doctors say people should take more care when they decide to self-prescribe. They say it's important to take aspirin daily only in consultation with a doctor or other health care provider.
"It's not something to play around with," said Dr. Mark Johnson, president of the American College of Preventive Medicine. "It does need to be taken seriously." Self-prescribing a daily aspirin regimen is unwise and widespread, he acknowledged.
"General guidelines call for men ages 45 to 79 and women ages 55 to 79 to take aspirin if benefits, such as preventing heart attacks or strokes, outweigh possible problems, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, Johnson said."
There are other cautions:
-- Aspirin can interact with other medicines or supplements. For instance, St. John's wort has some anti-clotting effects too; taken with aspirin, the effect is intensified.
-- Some patients are resistant to aspirin, so they won't reap the benefits from taking one daily. An aspirin-resistant patient is four times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke or even die from a pre-existing heart condition than a patient who is not resistant.
-- Those with ulcers or other gastrointestinal bleeding conditions may make their condition worse with aspirin.
So what should you do if you've been self-prescribing an aspirin a day?
Just make sure your doctor knows about it. Most likely, you are among the majority of people, who benefit from aspirin's effects. But the fact that you take it should be known by your health care professional and it should be on any list you carry of the medicines you take.
Here's the full CNN story:
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