Are you one of the millions of Americans who pops a daily aspirin in hopes of lowering risk of cardiovascular disease? Have you talked to your healthcare provider first or did you start taking it on your own? Updated guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Task Force report that you may be doing more harm than good.
Aspirin is a well known over-the-counter pain medication that also acts as a blood thinner. Men and women commonly take it if they are at risk for heart disease, or have a strong family history. Because it is so powerful at blood thinning, medical experts are concerned the side effects such as bleeding ulcers are outweighing the heart benefits. If you do not have heart disease you do not need an aspirin everyday.
The group’s guidelines state that men 45 years and older with risk factors for heart disease (like smoking and elevated choloesterol) and no history of ulcers or bleeding problems should take aspirin. Women 55 years and older with risk factors for stroke(such as high blood pressure and diabetes) and no history of ulcers or bleeding problems should take aspirin.
The U.S Task Force believes that age is the determining factor of a person’s risk for internal bleeding however international researchers believe that other factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes need to be considered. The problem is that those other risk factors are also an important consideration in stroke and heart attack risk.
Symptoms of an ulcer include burning or gnawing pain between the belly button and breastbone, nausea, or indigestion sensation. The pain usually subsides with meals or acid blockers but can waken someone in the middle of the night. A bleeding ulcer causes black stools (the black being the blood that was processed by the intestines). The continual bleeding may also cause iron-anemia leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, hair loss, brittle nails, and heavier menstrual flow. A perforated ulcer (when the lining becomes too thin and gives way) causes the pain to become severe.